RECORD REVIEWS, JULY-DECEMBER 2021.
THE ADAMSEED. Dancing with Urban Folk Devils CD (Godswank) It’s been two years since this Portsmouth-based bands’ previous album (‘Dead End Prophecies’) so I’m glad they’ve found a way to complete this latest offering despite all the lockdown-hassles. Their last CD was pretty impressive, but this new set of songs is a real step forward for them. The overall sound has more energy and bite to it, uptempo without getting too fast and unafraid to develop their arrangements to keep the listeners on their toes. The songs are catchy and insistent, with lyrics that deal with a variety of topics, from personal through to political, in a thoughtful and intriguing fashion. It’s a self-produced affair, recorded over a two-year period, but even faced with a disjointed-schedule, the band have managed to put together a very solid album that really works well as a whole. The songs blend well with each other, making the entire album exciting and enjoyable. Musically, the songs are usually based around a solid rhythm section, over which the guitar creates shards of noise, occasionally interspersed with the sort of leads that you might hear on Dead Kennedys albums. The vocals have quite a distinct, almost dramatic, style that remind me of the Morgellons in some places. This is a rather good album and just the sort of thing I hope we’ll be hearing more of, now that the lockdowns seem to be clearing-up! Be sure to give this a listen… facebook.com/THE-ADAMSEED-33582183811
ANDY T. Clinging Onto Sanity With A Broken Fingernail 10” (Grow Your Own) A long time ago, I was at a gig and trying to sell fanzines inbetween bands. I approached one woman and she asked to see the current issue. As she flicked through it, she asked me what my name was… when I said it was ‘Andy’, she replied, ‘but not Andy P’. Yes, I said, that’s what some people call me. She looked bewildered and said, ‘You’re not Andy P!’ so again I pleaded my case. Anyway, she didn’t buy a fanzine… It was only later that I realised that I’d probably misheard her (it was noisy!) and she’d been saying ‘Andy T’, who was on the bill that evening and who I obviously wasn’t… This episode has bothered me ever since, which just goes to show how paranoid (and potentially deaf) I am. So I apologise to both the woman involved and Andy T… and I suppose I owe him a good review! But that’s not too difficult, because this is a really good EP. Andy T has been involved with the punk rock poetry for more than 40 years, but he still finds a way to make records that will surprise and impress his listeners. With this release, he’s managed to find just the right balance between ‘spoken-word’ and musical-backing, creating a medium that’s more accessible but where the music doesn’t detract from the purpose of the lyrics themselves. This record concentrates on the words, but has also combined an appropriate soundtrack that will attract people for a closer listen. In this case, the songs alternate between longer tracks with music and shorter, unaccompanied poems. Opening track, ‘Bang My Head’ (not a heavy metal tribute) is about the frustration of using automated telephone services, rather than just speaking to a real person, and comes with a strong punky-backing which also veers into a polka-style at one point. ‘Love in a Riot’ features guitars and saxophone in an almost Cravats-style, while the words tell an unlikely romantic tale. ‘A Room Full of Friendly Ghosts’ addresses the fact that, as we get older, we lose more and more of our friends . ‘Frack On Frack Off’ tackles the issue of Government-imposed fracking, backed with a suitably reggae-infused backing and ‘Internet Troll’ addresses the issue of bullying on social media. It’s all good stuff, music that you can enjoy while the words are primed to make you think further on the different subjects. I know this isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but it’s something you should investigate because you may well find yourself being very impressed.
THE BOYS. Terminal Love LP (Gutterwall) This is a compilation of rare tracks, alternative mixes and live recordings covering the period from 1978-2015 and, as we have come to expect, it’s a treat to listen to. The Boys wrote and recorded some of the best songs that emerged from the original Punk era, combining insistent melodies and catchy hooks with high-energy and brash attitude. They deserved to be much more successful than they were and their songs should have been all over the airwaves, but the fact that this didn’t happen still remains a mystery. Which makes the release of compilations like this all the more important - giving the fans a chance to investigate all these rare recordings and, at the same time, introducing the band to a new generation of listeners. This isn’t a ‘best of’ collection, but that’s the thing about The Boys … even their less well-known tracks will grab your attention and have you singing along within seconds. That being said, you do still get classics like ‘Brickfield Nights’ (the acoustic version included here is one of the real highlights), ‘TCP’ and ‘Terminal Love’, so there’s plenty to draw you in before you fall in love with all the other tunes. If you’re not already a fan of The Boys, it’s never too late to rectify the situation and this album is as good an introduction as you could hope for!
BARKING POETS. Back to Abnormal. CD (Engineer) Six track mini album from a (presumably) young London-based band. Definite elements of The Clash / Ramones but put through an indie / pop-punk filter to create something highly accessible and catchy. Not sure if they’re ‘Barking’ as in Barking & Dagenham, or just Barking-mad, but their songs certainly display discontent with the current state of affairs in our corrupt and unpleasant land. They haven’t included their lyrics with this release, but you can find them on their website ( www.barkingpoets.com ) and its’ well worth the effort as they’ve penned some really great songs. ‘When the Bands Are Gone’ deals with the ongoing closure of venues, in favour of commercial enterprises that are unconcerned about community Arts or roots-level Music, while ‘Children of the World Wide Web’ reflects a world in which there is no trust in supposed-leaders to reverse the problems of Climate-change or pollution, and any hope for the future needs to come from young activists. Elsewhere, they tackle the subjects of austerity and gentrification… these are things that new bands should be addressing! Combined with a great production and melodies that will quickly stick in your brain, this is a very impressive debut from a band that I hope to see or hear more from very soon!
THE CHAMELEONS. Elevated Living: Live in Manchester, London & Spain (2CD & DVD set) In the late Seventies/early Eighties, there were a bunch of bands in the UK who experimented with a new style of rock music. Seemingly intent on developing the more traditional rock styles, some were doing it as a conscious career path (U2, Simple Minds etc, who subsequently replaced the previous dross with their own brand) while others were more interested in building upon the ideas first heard on the early records by the likes of Joy Division, The Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen. These bands may not have become so well-known, but their records were undoubtedly much more satisfying to the true music fans, creating rock music that was credible, original and interesting. The Chameleons were one of the best example of this, building comfortable success for themselves without fully crossing over in to the mainstream. The band first emerged in Manchester during 1981 and their debut album, ‘Script For a Bridge’ (1983) ensured national attention. They presented a much stronger and more focused sound compared to many of their contemporaries, presenting a convincing balance between genuine creativity and accessibility, not afraid to attract a wider audience but only on their own terms. A great example of this, as featured on these recordings, is their choice of cover version… Instead of opting for a more obvious crowd-pleaser, they storm through a version of the Alternative TV classic ‘Splitting in Two’, giving a good indication of where their roots lay, in the harder-edged but more creative moments of Punk. This new collection is spread over two CDs and one DVD, delivering three concert recordings (Manchester 1982 and 1983, Camden Palace 1984) and a rare Spanish TV presentation entitled ‘Arsenal’, which features live performances and interviews. The DVD then features the visual versions of these recordings, which although lacking in the kind of hi-tech quality we have these days, captures the band at their very best. The Chameleons released three albums before splitting in 1987 (eventually reforming between 2000-2003 and releasing three more albums) but their music has remained in high esteem and is regularly cited as influential by new generations of musicians. This set will certainly be welcomed by existing fans, whilst also serving as an excellent introduction to those hearing them for the first time. Hearing this collection reminded me of why I enjoyed the band when I first heard them and also found their music to be just as vital now as it was back then. Don’t miss it!
CHELSEA. Meanwhile Gardens CD (Westworld) I was never a huge fan of Chelsea, but at the same time, they have made some records (’War Across the Nation’, ‘Evacuate’ etc) that are total classics. And the current line-up have also been a pretty solid live band when I’ve seen them in recent years, so I was actually looking forward to hearing this latest album. And I’m happy to say that it’s actually a very enjoyable record. Musically, it’s a pretty upbeat set of songs and while the tempo never gets too fast, the results are full of energy. There’s a pretty anthemic quality to many of the songs, with plenty of singalong choruses and catchy hooks. Nic Austin’s guitar style is instantly recognisable and the rhythm section holds everything down perfectly, while Gene October’s vocals sound stronger than ever. As a treat for long-time fans, and also in recognition of the bands’ 45th anniversary, the album also includes appearances from former members James Stevenson, Martin Stacey and Bob Jesse, but even with those nods towards their past, this is an album that sounds very fresh and vital. This is a record that deserves to be heard by a large audience because it really is a band playing at their best and I think a lot of people will be surprised just how good it is. Go out and give it a listen now!
CHRIS POPE & THE CHORDS UK. Big City Dreams CD (Epop) This is the third album from Chris Pope’s current band and, whilst they’re all great records, this one sounds even better than its’ predecessors. In fact, much that I love the music released by the original Chords (and there’s more than a few classics in that discography) this latest album stands up as some of the best material he’s ever written. Of course, the original Mod / Punk / Glam influences are still in there to be heard, but there’s also a lot more diversity in this set of songs that adds even more depth to the proceedings. The record opens with a huge, crashing guitar chord that’s almost like a statement of intent which the rest of the album has to live up to. But no worries on that count, as the first song, ‘Listen to the Radio’, is an instantly enjoyable anthem paying tribute to great moments of early-Seventies Pop music, combined with a nod towards the Ramones’ ‘Rock’n’Roll Radio’. ‘The Last Great Rock Star’ (have a guess who you think it refers to…) quickly follows and delivers another attention-grabbing song with great melodies and a catchy chorus. Third track (and latest single release) ‘Hey Kids! Come the Revolution’ takes a less- boisterous direction, although again it has a great melodic hook and an insistent chorus that will have the whole audience singing along, while the lyrics are witty and poignant. ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’ is a nicely understated song, while ‘Veronica Jones’ reminds me (favourably) of The Undertones. Seriously, there isn’t a bad song on this record and, despite the different tones and tempos of the various songs it all comes together as a really solid album. ‘A Billion Things To Do’ has the kind of lyrics to inspire and keep you going, while ‘Twenty First Century Girl’ is an upbeat powerpop classic underpinned with a Ska rhythm that keeps it boppin’ along at a perfect pace… it really ought to be on all the radio waves! ‘Portobello Road’ celebrates the heyday of West street, when it really was an exciting place to visit… appropriately, the song also incorporates different musical styles, from reggae through to slide guitar and even Celtic sounds. The album ends with the epic ‘Great Expectations’ which recalls the likes of Mott the Hoople. It’s possibly the track on this album that’s furthest from what you might expect from Chris Pope, but it works really well, full of passion and intent. Trust me, you really need to hear this record. It’s a definite contender for ‘Album of the Year’ and I can’t wait to see this material played live. In the meantime, do yourself a favour and get yourself a copy soon.
COME THE SPRING. Echoes Revived CD (Engineer) Based in Brighton and featuring former members of Rydell and Strength Alone, the musicians in this band have obviously been involved in music for a while and have a clear view of the sound they want to produce, as well as the technical ability to achieve it. This record is actually made up of the tracks from their previous EPs, but they work together really well as a solid album in its’ own right. Moving forward from more regular punk or hardcore styles, Come The Spring aren’t afraid to slow down the tempo and concentrate more on the atmosphere of the songs rather than just the energy. Although they’re also more than capable of delivering louder and harder sounding songs, such as the powerful opening track ’13 Months’, they also give their music plenty of space in which to explore the dynamics, with an almost filmic quality creeping into the production at various times. Fortunately, they’re also not lacking a sense of humour, as glimpsed in their sly cover of ‘Boys of Summer’! This is a bold album that takes a lot of chances, which can sometimes be a risky endeavour, but in this case succeeds really well. Come The Spring get the balance just right and this album suggests they have a very promising future ahead of them.
CORROSION OF CONFORMITY. Sleeping Martyr: 2000-2005. CD (Cherry Red) Corrosion of Conformity started-out as a hardcore band in North Carolina, way back in 1982. Although their early records were influenced by the likes of Bad Brains, Black Flag and Discharge, they were also unafraid to include the music of Black Sabbath, Motorhead and Judas Priest among their inspirations, which helped them to find favour in the emerging thrash metal scene. As they developed more in the Metal direction, their popularity grew and they released the album ‘Blind’ on the Relativity label, which even saw them appearing on MTV. Their style helped to define the ‘sludge’ define and, in another musical twist, towards the end of the Nineties they also began to embrace elements of Southern Rock. Apart from a couple of short-breaks, the band has continued to this day, even though this has involved many personnel-changes (guitarist Woody is the only remaining original member.) This three-CD collection features the albums ‘America’s Volume Dealer’ and ‘In the Arms of God’, originally released on the Sanctuary label in 2000 and 2005 respectively, along with the live recording ‘Live Volume’, which appeared in 2001. Strangely, ‘AVD’ was not commercially successful at the time, despite the single ‘Congratulations Song’ being a Top 30 radio hit. However, its’ follow-up, ‘ITAOG’, was met with critical acclaim and revived their popularity once again. Both of these albums featured a much-more traditional Hard Rock style, delving back into the early-Seventies whilst maintaining their own hard-driving inimitable rhythmic style. The studio albums allowed space for experimentation, bringing-in slide guitar to accentuate certain tracks and allowing room for the tracks to develop organically. However, it’s as a live band that COC have always excelled and ‘Live Volume’ certainly illustrates the sheer power that their riffs and rhythms can generate. Including rare bonus tracks as well as a fully illustrated twenty page booklet, this release is going to be a real treat for established fans, as well as an excellent introduction for listeners checking them out for the first time.
THE CRAMPS. Let’s Get Fucked Up LP (Mind Control) Double album featuring a full gig recorded in Italy, 1998, capturing the band on tour promoting the excellent ‘Big Beat from Badsville’ album. As such, among older favourites like ‘Garbageman’, ‘Goo Goo Muck’ and ‘Human Fly’ we also get blistering versions of (then) recent songs like ‘Cramp Stomp’, ‘God Monster’ and ‘It thing Hard On’, plus goodies from the previous album (‘Flamejob’) like ‘Mean Machine’ and ‘Naked Girl Falling Down the Stairs’. What it proves beyond any but the most cynical doubters, is that The Cramps were firing on full cylinders right up until the end, and anyone who saw them on their last few tours should confirm this. This set is excellent, full of energy and a suitably-sleazy attitude. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the sound quality. Despite the cover declaring that it was recorded for a TV broadcast, it’s clearly an audience recording and not one of the better ones. As such, this is more for the die-hard fans rather than those wanting a definitive live recording, but once you get past the murky sound, the set is still very enjoyable. Great cover art, as well!
THE CRAMPS. Halloween in Heels LP (Cthulhu Fhtagn) This is a great recording of The Cramps celebrating Halloween in San Francisco back in 1996. As anyone who saw them with this line-up (Lux, Ivy, Slim Chance and Harry Drumdini) will confirm, the band were at the top of their game, delivering both old and new songs with total rock’n’roll abandonment. But they had a particular affection for Halloweeen, so these gigs could always promise something extra. As such, this particular set has the bonus appeal of including a couple of rarely-played cover versions (‘Dinner with Drac’ and The Embers’ ‘I Walked All Night’) which will have fans salivating over their stereo… Elsewhere, there’s plenty of old faves like ‘Green Fuzz’, ‘You Got Good Taste’ and a stompin’ version of ‘The Crusher’ that will have you wishing you’d been there. Great sound quality, great artwork (if you’re quick, a small amount are on red vinyl and include a free poster!) and positive proof that The Cramps never lost their energy or attitude, even during their later years. There are loads of live- recordings of The Cramps, but this is definitely one of the best bootlegs to emerge in recent times.
THE CULT. Born Into This : Savage Edition CD (Cherry Red) The transformation of Southern Death Cult through to Death Cult and subsequently The Cult is truly bizarre. That the musical integrity and originality of SDC developed into Death Cult wasn’t too much of a digression, but by the time they became The Cult, it seems as if the band had abandoned any interest in alternative-credibility and adopted a blatantly mainstream brand of hard rock. Of course, this plan of action was the bands’ prerogative but it just seems strange that Ian Astbury went from SDC to the kind of music produced by The Cult in such a short space of time, which would seem to be diametrically opposed to the music of his first band. That being said, at least the move was successful, so you have to give them credit where it’s due. Undeniably, Billy Duffy is a great guitarist and in many ways, it’s his sound that has provided the consistent appeal of The Cult. Ian Astbury’s vocals can come across as histrionic although at times, you do still get hints of the more adventurous voice that he developed in SDC. That being said, at other times he’s more than happy to pull out all the naff rock clichés – ‘Holy Mountain’ is truly appalling! With the intent of producing an album of raw, hard-riffin’ rock, ‘Born Into This’ was originally released in 2007, but is now being reissued with a bonus five-track CD featuring previously unreleased outtakes and demos, making it a more than worthwhile item for any fan of the band.
THE CUTTHROAT BROTHERS with MIKE WATT. The King is Dead LP (Hound Gawd!) This is a great mix of different styles. Starting out with dirty Swamp rock (think of Screaming Jay Hawkins backed-up by the original Gun Club) but then add a whole lot of cool twists to the formula, from surf to Blues. Catchy vocal melodies weave their way in and out of the fuzzed-up rhythms, while Mike Watt delivers the dirtiest basslines since his work with The Stooges. Production from the legendary Jack Endino captures everything with clarity but never losing the raw energy of the songs, whilst the final collaborator comes in the person or Raymond Pettibon, who provides the excellent cover art. There really isn’t anything to dislike about this record – do yourself a favour and check it out!
DARKTHRONE.Eternal Hails CD (Peaceville) Darkthrone are a revered Norwegian extreme metal band who originally formed (initially known as Black Death) as far back as 1986. Since 1993, the band have continued as a duo consisting of Nocturno Culto and Fenrriz, but this has done little to distil their overall sound, which remains just as large and brutal. The three albums they released between 1992-94 (‘A Blaze in the Northern Sky’, ‘Under a Funeral Moon’ and ‘Transilvanian Hunger’) are highly regarded by Black Metal fans, but the band have never been content to rest on their past reputation. By 2005, they had adopted a style more in line with punk attitudes (even covering the Banshees’ classic ‘Love in a Void’) and combining their Black Metal roots with Crust Punk sounds. Since 2010, their albums have embraced elements from more traditional 1970s/80s Hard Rock / Heavy Metal, whilst again, still maintaining their raw style. ‘Eternal Hails’ continues with this most recent direction, containing five lengthy tracks that allow the band space to extend their vision. The results will be welcomed by fans of early Venom and Voivod just as much as fans of Darkthrones’ earlier work. The overall atmosphere is dark and gloomy, but the riffs and rhythms remain enthralling, drawing you into their world. The first two tracks are relatively slow and move at a tempered pace, but third track, ‘Wake of the Awakened’, introduces a faster tempo to shake your expectations. ‘Voyage to a North Pole Adrift’ is a more atmospheric soundscape, while the final track, ‘Lost Arcane City of Uppakra’ returns to the slower, heavy riffs and even introduces electronic sounds towards its’ conclusion. This is a powerful, raw album that successfully combines older and more contemporary styles, giving it a sound that deserves to be heard.
DEATH VALLEY GIRLS. Street Venom – Deluxe Edition LP (Suicide Squeeze) Originally released in 2014, this reissue is the first-time on vinyl for the bands’ great debut album. Based in Los Angeles, Death Valley Girls produce a great mix of styles and attitude, that comes across as a natural and organic creation rather than a bunch of musicians trying to be clever. This is music that hits you in the gut first, before it infects your head and your heart. Their most recent album, last years’ ‘Under the Spell of Joy’, indulged in the same ingredients but took them further, developing ideas and expressing them with even more range and depth. In contrast, ‘Street Venom’, may be a bit more direct and (mostly) raucous, but put in to context, it’s just as vital. References can be made - The Gun Club, Frightwig and Savage Republic / Scenic, while some of the repetitive, drone-like riffs even recall Ron Asheton’s inspired guitar sounds on the ‘Funhouse’ album. But Death Valley Girls are making music that’s very-much their own, like a soundtrack for a Quentin Tarantino script that’s being directed by David Lynch (now, there’s an idea…) But the single factor that does most to set them apart from any others are Bonnie Bloomgardens’ vocals. Like a cross between Deanna Ashley (Frightwig) and Janis Joplin, the lyrics are delivered with a real passion and determination that more than matches the sonic assault of the band. This reissue will probably give a lot of fans their first chance to hear this record and I’m sure none of them are going to be disappointed. Crank it up LOUD and let this record give you something to get excited about!
THE DENTS. s/t CD (Rum Bar) Boston-based hi-energy garage punks The Dents were originally together between 2003-2007, releasing one highly-regarded album, ‘Time for Biting’, during that time. Fortunately, for those of us who missed them at the time, the band are now back together and delivering this new, self-titled album. Fronted by Michelle Paulhus and Jennifer D’Angora, the twin-vocals propel the already excellent songs into a whole new orbit. Think of a collision between Suzi Quattro and The Fastbacks, perhaps? Most of the songs are brash and uptempo, though when they do slow things down for the superb, atmospheric ‘Homeless’, the contrast really grabs your attention. This is a truly great album, let’s hope we’ll be hearing even more from this band in the coming years.
THE DeRELLAS. Something’s Got to Give CD (Rockaway) The DeRellas are the latest band to benefit from the excellent production of Pat Collier. As one of the original members of The Vibrators, he’s clearly retained his understanding of the dirtier, more raucous aspects of rock’n’roll and is happy to help current bands get the raw sound they want rather than concentrating on the sort of clean-cut sound that lesser studios foist upon unwitting bands. In this case, The DeRellas are a bit more experienced than many and probably wouldn’t allow that to happen without a fight, but hearing the sound achieved on this album, it’s obviously a case of like-minds with a common purpose. If anything, The DeRellas actually sound harder and more aggressive on this album, leaning more towards their Punk Rock influences rather than the sleazy-glam (New York Dolls, Bowie) although that still plays a big part in their make-up. There seems to have been a few line-up changes since their last record, and this album was recorded pretty-much as a three-piece, although having not been able to see them live for quite a while (Goddamn that lockdown!) I can’t confirm if that’s going to be an ongoing situation. But even taking that into account, the overall sound is certainly not lacking, with bassist Timmy taking-on lead vocals in great style, while guitarist Luca delivers both lead and rhythm with the perfect mix of precision and swagger. The tracks run from one to the next with a real sense of urgency, mixing raw punk rock attitude with catchy melodic riffs and insistent choruses. There’s no point in picking-out individual tracks, because there isn’t a single disappointment on this album. (Although I should mention that the new version of ‘High Rise Supersize’ is just as good, if not better, than the previous single version.) This really is The DeRellas at their best, delivering songs that will have you dancing on first-listen and whistling on your way home. If you’ve ever been curious about this band, or only seen them live, then trust me… This is the record that you really need to hear!
DESPERATE JOURNALIST. Maximum Sorrow CD (Fierce Panda) Anyone who named their band after an obscure track performed by The Cure as part of their 1979 Peel Session was bound to intrigue the trainspotter within me. Actually, the name proves to be pretty appropriate as the band are certainly based within the traditions of that same, so-called ‘post-punk’ era. Although it’s just as important to point out that while they take the elements, they also embrace other influences (Glam, Kate Bush, Bjork) to create their own style of dramatic pop. Singer Jo Bevan has often been compared to Siouxsie but I think this is a lazy choice. In truth, Bevans’ vocals are altogether warmer and more emotive, avoiding the melodrama that the ‘gothic’ genre revelled in. Musically, the band may adopt a style of arrangement and production that recalls alternative rock bands from the Eighties, but they do so in such a natural way that it never takes away from the power and purpose of the songs themselves. After all, it’s the actual songwriting that is the bands’ greatest strength. There are plenty of bands who adopt a certain style to hide the fact that their music has no real substance, but that’s not something that can be levelled against Desperate Journalist. Indeed, their songs are catchy and compelling in their own right and the melodies have the kind of insistence that will stick in your memory from the very first listen, sounding better and better on each repeated play. Desperate Journalist may have delved into the musical-past, but they’ve avoided doing so as some sort of nostalgic-trip and, rather, have found a way to take things forward, creating something of their own. In a perfect world, this record would be all over the airwaves. Don’t let the fact that most radio stations are so dull and predictable these days, spoil this for you. Be sure to hear this album and enjoy the ideas, the tunes and the atmosphere!
DIRT ROYAL. Great Expectations LP (Time For Action) Another album released back in 2020, that I’m catching-up on now and it’s too good not to give it a mention here… Dirt Royal are a Brighton-based three piece who mix-up Punk and Mod sounds together with a nod towards the better moments of the ‘Britpop’ era (Blur and Pulp.) It’s a good approach for a young band to take, blending elements from different genres and generations but confidently understanding the ways that the different styles collide and interlink. The results are pretty impressive. Their songs tend to meet the classic pop-standards, three minutes or less, based around catchy melodic hooks and insistent choruses. Put this all together with a great set of lyrics, which veer towards more personalised but not pretentious subjects, and you’ve really got yourself a fine album. This is definitely a record you should make efforts to listen to. It showcases a very-promising band and suggests that they have plenty of potential. I look forward to hearing more from them!
DOGSHITE. Mass Deception 10” (Grow Your Own) I’m not the first to say this and I’m sure I won’t be the last, but I’m afraid the name ‘Dogshite’ is a bit off-putting. It conjures up images of the worst sort of gumbie-punk bands. But (and you really need to PAY ATTENTION here) this mini-album is one of the best punk rock releases of the past year, which totally erases any negative precpnceptions. Seven tracks that contain great melodies, powerful lyrics, loads of energy and a strong production that really brings out the best of every song. The music and lyrics are varied but come together as a very strong set… Songs like ‘Cos I’m Gonna’ and ‘Fuck the Law’ recall the best moments of the original Anarcho-punk scene, while ‘Sexual Exploitation’ is a righteous rant against sexist attitudes that are sadly still prevalent within society. ‘Soldier’ has a catchy ska-tinged melody while the lyrics takes a different and highly effective twist on the anti-military stance. ’79 in Our Time’, rather than being cheesy nostalgia, is more of a call to arms, pleading new bands and artists to bring back the anger and frustration of punk rock rather than just embracing vacuous pop. In fact, that’s probably the only thing that’s sad about this record… this is the sort of thing that more teenage bands should be producing for themselves! That said, I’m just glad that this record is out there, because it’s a positive statement in all the right ways. My original assumptions about this band, based solely on their name, were very wrong but being proved wrong was a great experience! It’s definitely one of my favourite records this year and everyone should hear it as soon as they can!
THE EARLY MORNINGS.Unnecessary creation EP (https://the-early-mornings.bandcamp.com/releases) Forming in Manchester but now based in South London, this is a really intriguing set of songs from this young band, which immediately reminded me of bands like The Nightingales, The Creepers, perhaps even certain elements of Savage Republic. But the further you listen, the more you’ll hear hints of The Raincoats through to more recent bands like The Breeders. It takes me back to listening to the John Peel show on a cheap, trebly transistor radio and that’s not such a bad thing when what they’re doing now has so much character and authenticity of its’ own. Yup, this is a very enjoyable set of songs and I’ll certainly be keen to hear how the band develops from here.
EMILY FLEA. No Room For You 10” (Grow Your Own) I often bemoan the fact that there aren’t enough young punk bands really railing against the fucked-up world that we live in, but Emily Flea is exactly the kind of singer/lyricist we need in these days. There’s so much bullshit out there, holding back any chance of progress, so people of her generation should be angry and should be finding ways to address it. This mini-album contains nine tracks in total, involving subjects like Gay rights, bigotry within the punk rock scene, and Animal rights… nothing new, perhaps, but targets that, sadly, still need to be addressed. The songs are mostly played in an upbeat punk rock style somewhere inbetween Action Pact and Hagar the Womb although the final song ‘No One Hears The Screams’ has a more solemn atmosphere to match the subject matter. In fact, the only thing that seems to be missing is the band details… there no info about who’s playing on this record (in recent times, Emily has been playing solo, acoustic gigs, so I don’t think she has a regular band.) Perhaps she is playing everything, but either way, I’d like to know. But overall, this is a raw, thought-provoking set of songs that’s insistent and positive. Be sure to hear this record!
ELLEN FOLEY. Fighting Words CD (Urban Noise) Ellen Foley has an impressive rock’n’roll CV. She first came to the publics’ attention in 1977, when she appeared on the mega-selling Meat Loaf album, ‘Bat Out of Hell’. Her debut solo album, ‘Night Out’, was produced by Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson in 1979 and proved to be successful in both Europe and America. In the same year she provided vocals for the Blue Oyster Culy album ‘Mirrors’ and in 1980 featured on The Clash album ‘Sandinista’, most notably the single ‘Hitsville UK’. In return, The Clash played on her next album, ‘The Spirit of St Louis’, and she also returned on ‘Combat Rock’ (there’s even a rumour that ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ was at least partly written about her relationship with Mick Jones…) From the late Eighties she became more involved with theatre, TV and film-work, although she has also remained involved with music, releasing further solo albums in 1983 and 2013. This album maybe the first for eight years, but her vocal talents are certainly not out of practice. Admittedly, it may be aimed towards a more mainstream rock audience, but there’s still plenty to enjoy, whatever your tastes. Opening track ‘Are You Good Enough’, wouldn’t have been out of place on a Joan Jett album and ‘I’m Just Happy to be Here’ sounds like a Bruce Springsteen song after a serious dose of adrenalin. ‘I Call My Pain by Your Name’ is an emotive country-tinged ballad, while ‘Fill Your Cup’ is the kind of late-night bar-room blues that Tom Waits used to deliver so well (think of ‘Innocent When You Dream’.) ‘Leave Him Janie’ is a raunchy Country stomper that provides a perfect contrast to the albums’ finale, ‘Heaven Can Wait’, with it’s minimal but atmospheric backing allowing Ellen’s vocals to fill the speakers. As with previous projects, Ellen has assembled an impressive cast of musicians for this album, including guitarist Michael Jung (Alice Donut), bassist CP Roth (Ozzy Osbourne band etc) and drummer Steve Goulding (The Rumour and The Mekons.) As I said before, this is a rock album but it also takes cues from a much broader range of music and all I can say is, give it a listen. If you can ditch any preconceptions, there’s no reason why you won’t enjoy this for the accomplished album it is.
FEAR GODS. S/T CD https://feargods1.bandcamp.com/album/fear-gods Fear Gods are a fairly new band (I think) formed in New Jersey by former members of Adrenalin OD, The Blisters, Headwound and The Kowalskis. That means they’re all a little bit older, but also that they know what they’re doing! There’s a definite stylistic similarity to Adrenalin OD and I’d also suggest early-Freeze and maybe Pegboy as other good comparisons. Fear Gods’ songs are generally fast-paced but never lacking a catchy melodic hook. There are 13 tracks in total and they’re all good fun. Lyrically, they don’t seem to be too serious and songs like ‘I Gotta Pee’ and ‘IRS’ are clearly humorous. Opening track, ‘Oh No’, has a hint of The Pogues, although that’s not something that’s evident on the rest of the songs. ‘Story of Youth’ takes a slower pace and a more emotive, anthemic style, while ‘Justification’ is a great shot of energy that will grab your attention and keep it. ‘Field Trip’ contains an insistent almost-rockabilly riff that for some reason reminds me of The Weirdo’s ‘Helium Bar’, while the final song, ‘Louse’, is the only fairly slow track, although it still manages to bop along with a groovin’ bass-line. This is a great album with a strong production and I really hope it gets picked up for wider distribution soon (it’s only a self-release at the moment.) In the meantime, track it down via bandcamp, as above. (PS – be warned...apparently, there’s a ‘Christian-Punk band' (?) from California called ‘Fear God’… be careful not to get them mixed-up!)
FORDS FUZZ INFERNO. Flog Yourself With Fuzz EP (Subunderground) Here’s the second EP from this Dutch duo and it’s even better than the first! With a lo-fi production that perfectly captures the energy and approach of the band, this is a record that celebrates noise and distortion, but without losing touch with melody. Admittedly, the tunes may be almost-buried beneath the shards of sound, but they’re always there to make sure that you have something to pull you through… All four songs bounce along in a surprisingly catchy style, with only ‘Roomful of Doubt’ (barely) reaching the two-minute marker. The fuzz blends together the different musical elements, but along the way you’ll hear hints of The Cramps, the Mummies, hardcore, country and even some of the early UK Anarcho-bands. This is great fun (I’d love to see this band live!) Grab a copy of this EP as soon as you can, and be warned… there’s an album on its’ way soon!
FRENCH GIRLS s/t LP (Rum Bar) Following on from their excellent EP, this is the first full-length album from the Phoenix, Arizona based French Girls (which suggests that they may not be French at all…) If you’ve already enjoyed the EP, you’re going to love this record. Ten songs that take the basic ingredients heard on the EP but use them to even greater effect this time around. Ramones-style Punk, Sixties Garage rock and vintage Girl bands (Shangri-Las etc) all come together with a generous helping of attitude and adrenalin to make this a highly infectious blend of melodic punk rock. Think of The Muffs or The Fastbacks, maybe even the Headcoatees… As a wise man once declared, if you can’t dig this, you can’t dig nothin’!’ and who are we to argue?
GRAND COLLAPSE. Empty Plinths LP (Epidemic/TNS) Grand Collapse are a Bristol-based band who, over the course of two previous albums, have established themselves as one of the most powerful and impressive groups on the current hardcore scene. Their style is very direct and confrontational, taking influences from bands like Conflict and Antisect, whilst also unafraid to indulge in some Motorhead-style hard-rock riffs. But for all the aggression and brutality of the musical delivery, you’ll also find plenty of melodic hooks within these songs. Lyrically, the band address the atmosphere of frustration and stagnation that sums up the UK at present, whilst also celebrating the true spirit of righteous rebellion, such as the recent tearing down of the statue of slave-trader Edward Colston in their home town. Although there is so much negativity at present, the band are also keen to point towards a way forward, even if it may look like a difficult task. This is a very impressive album and, although musically it may not be to everyone’s taste, the sheer power of the performance is very insistent and the lyrical content gives much to think about. This is a record that needs to be heard.
HAROLD TURGIS. Satellite 1997-2021 Cassette (Noble Lowndes Annuities) It took me a while to review this as my (admittedly ancient) tape-deck decided to commit suicide a few months ago, but now that I have renewed access to the cassette format I have to say that this was worth the wait. Pat Daintith, the man behind this release, is also a member of London based band Hygeine and while their music is often compared to bands of the so-called ‘post-punk’ era (there was no post-punk, it was just punk taking the next step forward…) the music on this album takes a sideways swerve into the early days of electronic music and primitive synth-pop. And he does it very well. With a suitably minimal and lo-fi approach, he conjures-up the primal recordings of bands like the Human League and Cabaret Voltaire, with nods to the original Industrial music scene and indie pop along the way. Having said that, the results aren’t merely derivative and add their own character and identity to the proceedings in an effective manner. It’s experimental whilst also maintaining a strong accessible element, which is always a difficult balance to achieve. But this release does just that and, in doing so, remains interesting and entertaining all the way through. Its’ release on cassette only is an appropriate gesture to the original independent music scene … it’s just a shame that John Peel isn’t still around to champion it! Contact ; www.haroldturgis.bandcamp.com
HAWKWIND. Somnia CD (Cherry Red) Although only Dave Brock remains from the original line-up, Hawkwind has existed as an entity for over five decades and still retains a loyal following around the world. Whilst many will admit that their best material was produced during the bands’ classic Seventies era, they’ve also managed to continue releasing albums (this is their 34th studio LP) that keep established fans happy and also attract new audiences. If anything, the longer they continue the easier it becomes to appreciate their place in contemporary rock music and the legacy they have already established. Hawkwind may not be properly recognised by the more mainstream rock audience but what they have achieved over the past five decades has been highly significant. Their early albums created a sound of their own, ‘space rock’ as it is often called, which developed from elements of hard rock, early prog rock and other more avant garde directions. Indeed, Hawkwind were often more in line with the so-called ‘krautrock’ bands (particularly Neu, who Dave Brock helped to promote by penning sleeve notes for their debut album in the UK.) Further along, they were undoubtedly an influence on the early Punk Rock scene and over the following decades they’ve been cited as influences in the ambient and rave scenes. So how well do they stand up more than 50 years down the road? I have to say, I expected this album to be good but not as good as this! They’ve moved things forward, not content to sit on their laurels, but their roots are still in evidence and effectively-so. Opening track ‘Unsomnia’ recalls their earlier, more experimental music, based around an almost motorik rhythm that allows plenty of space for atmospheric sounds, whilst second track, ‘Strange Encounters’ lets the noise take precedence with the most dense sounds on the album. After the first two songs, the band allow you time to catch your breath with the more ambient ‘Alcyone’. ‘China Blues’ (which could be referring to several different current issues) is a slow-moving but unsettling track while ‘It’s Only A Dream’ is possibly the most radio-friendly song on the album, although only in Hawkwind-terms! The instrumental ‘Meditation’ embraces Indian musical influences, and ‘I Can’t Get You Off My Mind’ runs towards later Pink Floyd territory. Basically, I’m not going to say this is the bands’ best album to date, but it certainly is a good album that is recognisably Hawkwind whilst breaking new ground and embracing current studio technology. To still be creating records as effective and enjoyable as this after more than 50 years is a truly remarkable feat and if you have any doubts, hear it for yourself. Dave Brock and his bandmates can be very proud of this achievement.
JFK. Nganga CD (Fourth Dimension) Anthony Di Franco has been involved within the more extreme electronic music scene for quite some time, as a member of Ramleh and Skullflower as well as his ongoing solo project JFK. This album originally appeared as a limited-edition vinyl-only release back in 2017, so this CD version will obviously be welcomed by those who missed out first-time around. Although clearly inspired by the harsher sounds of Throbbing Gristle and SPK, as well as the original power-electronics scene, this JFK album takes a different route from its’ origins and adopts a more rhythmic approach, albeit highly disjointed at times. There are certain tracks that could be compared with early Swans material (‘Time is Money’, ‘A Screw’ etc) in the way that the tracks play with the whole format of ‘dance’ music and put it into an entirely different, far more unsettling realm. Other elements emerge as the album continues, with hints of psychedelia and even Space rock taking their place in the arrangements, whilst the more atmospheric moments reflect filmic qualities. This is a powerful album that benefits all the more from having a variety of styles in play, contrasting the material rather than letting it become too repetitive. This edition also includes two bonus tracks (previously only available on a highly-limited 7” single) which will make it even more desirable to the fans. As I said before, this music can be quite unsettling at times, but if you listen with an open mind, it’s also surprisingly enjoyable.
KIRKBY KISS. Listen Closely EP (https://kirkbykiss.bandcamp.com/) I received the first EP from this New Jersey band earlier this year and enjoyed it a lot, so I’m glad to be receiving their latest release. These four new tracks are a great follow-up to the previous EP and again, the band are combining contemporary hardcore with a mix of interesting riffs and unpredictable rhythms, which should appeal to both regular hardcore fans and those that are seeking something a bit more unusual. The closest comparison I can make is probably with Fucked Up, although they don’t necessarily sound like them – it’s more to do with the intricate arrangements and the powerful delivery. Opening track, ‘Shipwrecked’, is short but straight to the point, serving as a great, well-paced introduction before the second song, ‘Human Resources’ explodes in a furious burst of energy. ‘Body Right’ starts slowly, building the tension before allowing the full tempo to take over, while final track ‘You’re So Not Welcome’ combines a great bass riff with melodic hooks to create a surprisingly catchy finale. Again, I can only recommend that you check this out!
KISS ME KILLER. 2020 Vision 10” (Grow Your Own) This is an eight-song mini-album from a relatively new (I think) Bristol-based punk rock garage band. I mean that in terms of, their sound is very spontaneous and full of raw energy, rather than being Sixties Garage punk, if you see what I mean. I’m guessing that Kiss Me Killer embrace a lot of different influences from different eras, but nostalgia they are not. The songs are unpredictable and varied, as are the subjects of the lyrics, but they put it all together in just the right way, producing a very solid and convincing record. Opening track ‘Lice’ is a bizarre tale of parasites becoming familiars, while ‘Kevin the Kitchen Crab’ tells the story of a hungry crustacean! Elsewhere, though, ‘Gentrification’ is a problem that many of us are facing these days, whilst ‘Sports Direct’ addresses the loathsome business in fine tongue-in-cheek fashion. ‘Ego Lycra Cycle Man’ tackles inconsiderate, self-entitled cyclists, whilst ‘Rat Race’ isn’t condemning hard-work, it’s condemning pointless work. Musically, the band play riffs that recall the best moments of UK82 punk rock through to Ron Asheton-style overdrive. And there’s even a bassline that reminds me of the Bauhaus song ‘Stigmata Martyr’ (that’s a good thing, by the way!) This is a great debut release and I’ll be hoping to hear and see more from this band soon!
LONG TALL SHORTY. Lottsappopaz LP (Time For Action) This album was actually released some time ago, but as I’ve only just recently received it, I’m going to include it in my current reviews because it’s certainly worth tracking-down if you haven’t already heard it. Long Tall Shorty were one of the earliest bands on the late-Seventies ‘Mod revival’ scene, but, as with bands like The Chords, they mixed their Sixties influences with punk rock sounds and attitude. Initially signed by WEA and attracting plenty of attention from fans and other bands, the original band split-up in 1980 just as things seemed to be going their way. A new line-up quickly came together but trouble at a few of their gigs began to mar their momentum. They split again in 1982, when guitarist Tony Perfect left to join the Angelic Upstarts, although occasional reunions would occur over the ensuing years until, in 1999, they reformed to play the Mods Mayday festival. The release of several compilations of their original recordings around the same time bought them to a whole new audience, especially in Europe, and they have remained active ever since. This album, as I mentioned, was actually released in 2018, but it’s a great set of songs that recalls their original sounds whilst confidently updating their style. Tony Perfect (aka Feedback) delivers his vocals with a snotty, sneering tone that probably owes more to his punk-past than the more expected Mod elements, while musically the songs embrace different genres from both the Sixties and Seventies, including Mod and Art-pop through to Glam and Punk. It’s a pretty upbeat album with plenty of energy and lots of melodic hooks which will be stuck in your ears long after the record has ended. Also worth mentioning here is the ‘Take It Easy’ EP, released by Time For Action records in 2020, featuring another four songs that follow-on from the album in great style. The sound and production is more raw than the album, but perfectly suits the songs. So, if you haven’t already done so, don’t leave it any longer and be sure to check-out these records as soon as you can.
LOS SANTOS. On The Strip (Vegas Baby) (https://lossantoslondon.bandcamp.com/track/on-the-strip-vegas-baby) I don’t often review individual tracks, preferring to wait until a proper release becomes available, but this one is well-worth the mention. Los Santos are a pretty new London-based band although the various members have been involved with music for some time. Songwriters Richard and Michael have previously played with the likes of The Members and The Saints, whilst they are joined here by Alex and Vez from current punk sensations Wonk Unit. ‘On the Strip’ is a homage to the ‘golden era’ of Las Vegas (think of the Rat Pack, mobsters and sleazy casinos) whil3e musically it recalls mid-Eighties Ramones (‘Howling at the Moon’, ‘Something to Believe In’, ‘Bonzo Goes to Bitsburg’ etc) and perhaps some Johnny Thunders-style raunch-n’roll. It’s a genuinely catchy song with great guitar hooks and a solid rhythm section that suggests we should really be keeping our eyes and ears on this band. Let’s hope they make the most of their potential!
MANUALS. When The Tanks Roll Over Poland Again CD single (Blank Generation) Sometimes a new release turns up that unexpectedly blows me away. This is a good example. ‘When the Tanks…’ is a melodic punk rock classic originally written and recorded by London-based band The Automatics. Released by Island records in 1978, it turned out to be their only record at that time, although a full album of further recordings was eventually released in 2000. But when I first heard about this new version, I must admit that I was a little bit sceptical when I found out that The Manuals was a band fronted by Steve Green, former singer for the early Eighties punk band, Special Duties. I was never a fan of the band back then and I haven’t heard anything since then to change my mind, but I was still curious to see how Steve’s new combo handled the Automatics’ masterpiece. Well, I really should have had more faith in the Manuals choice of cover. Anyone who picked out a song as great and as unlikely as this for their first release, was obviously keen to live-up to it. The results are very impressive. ‘When the Tanks…’ is played with a real sense of occasion, with the guitars and rhythm section tearing through the song with so much energy that they make this new release more than worthwhile in its’ own right, rather than just another cover that doesn’t really match the original. On top of this, Steve’s vocals really hit the spot, catching the melodies perfectly and delivering the lyrics with real intent and determination. And then, just to confound expectations even further, the second track is ‘Irish Blessing’, a folk-tinged crooner written and recently released by original Automatics frontman, David Philp (who also plays guitar on the track.) Any comparison to Special Duties, whether you were ever a fan or not, is completely put to rest. If this is what the Manuals can produce as a debut, then I really hope their own material and future releases are going to keep-up the quality. Be sure to hear this for yourself.! https://m.facebook.com/manuals1977/
THE MEDIA. Blink of an Eye LP (Detour) Originally together in the late Seventies, The Media were mostly seen as part of the Mod Revival scene but, as with other bands of that era, it probably didn’t do them justice. As has been said before, their sound was too punk for the Mods but also too Mod for the Punks, and they weren’t going to compromise their own style just to please the crowds. Of course, as often happens in such cases, time has served them well and their original singles are now highly collectable, with price-tags to match. Fortunately, their original recordings were gathered together on the ‘Bright New Future’ album in 2019, making them easily-available for the new fans and, hot on the heels of this, the band also reformed. This latest album of entirely new material is the result and it sounds as if they have been away. Big elements of Glam rock (Bowie, TRex, Slade etc) alongside the raw punk of ’77 mixed with the best of the ‘second wave’ (think of the early Good Vibrations releases) and other ‘mod’ bands like The Chords or The Purple Hearts. The vocals, perhaps surprisingly, recall Colin McFaull (Cocksparrer) and there are hints of the Pub Rock scene in their music, as well as Sixties’ influences. There are so many great songs on this record, from the title track through to ‘The Hope’ and the excellent closing track, ‘Bag Lady’. For a band to re-emerge after such a long-break and to do it with so much style is very impressive and I really can’t recommend it enough!
MELVINS. Five Legged Dog CD (Ipecac) Locked-down or not, nothing prevents The Melvins from continuing their work. In this case, here’s 36 songs (spread over two CDs) selected from various moments across their career and, as you’d probably expect, a fine selection of choice cover versions. But here’s the surprise, they’re all recorded acoustically! Yes, that’s probably not the format that you’d usually expect from these purveyors of huge noise, but the results are just as insistent and powerful as they ought to be. The trick here is that the drum sound takes pole position and dominates the proceedings, ensuring that the sounds are still as pummelling as ever, even though the bass and guitar are given plenty of space to allow for subtlety and finesse. As such, these recordings allow different elements to present themselves within the older songs, whilst also allowing the band to really put their stamp on the cover versions. Highpoints? Well, we get a cover of the Redd Kross song ‘Charlie’, a dreamy version of ‘Everybody’s Talking’ (from the ‘Midnight Cowboy’ soundtrack) and a truly excellent cover of ‘Halo of Flies’ (probably my favourite Alice Cooper track…) And, of course, there are plenty of the Melvins’ own songs to keep you happy. Don’t be put-off by this being an ‘acoustic’ album, this is still The Melvins and still as hard’n’heavy as it needs to be.
MINISTRY. Bad Blood : The Mayan Albums 2002-2005 CD boxset (Cherry Red) Al Jourgensen formed Ministry way-back in 1981 but at first they were a fairly unremarkable synth-pop band. It wasn’t until the late Eighties, with the albums ‘The Land of Rape & Honey’ and ‘The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste’ that they carved out a more aggressive sound and image, inspired by bands from the post-punk era (Killing Joke in particular) and the original ‘industrial’ scene. They blended digital technology with live guitars and drums to create a huge sound that quickly elevated them to international success. With a constantly-changing line-up of musicians, (the likes of Tommy Victor (Prong) Paul Raven (Killing Joke) and Rey Washam (Scratch Acid etc) have all played their parts…) Jourgensen has been able to solidify the Ministry sound, whilst continuing to push against any boundaries. And as the music has maintained its’ raw power, the lyrics have continued to condemn the darker aspects of American society, even whilst maintaining a sly sense of humour. This boxset includes four albums released on the Sanctuary/Mayan label and, perhaps surprisingly, the band first chose to release the live ‘Sphinctour’ album, documenting the material played on their previous tour. Perhaps meant as a stop-gap to give them a chance to write and record a new studio LP, it certainly wasn’t a half-hearted effort and after much editing, it was released on CD, video and DVD formats with the recordings originating from 11 different shows! If you’re a fan of live recordings, this is an impressive document with songs taken from ‘The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste’ (1989) Through to ‘Filth Pig’ (1996.) The first new studio album, ‘Animositisomina’ was released in 2003 and was also their first in four years. Evidently, there was friction between Jourgensen and Paul Barker (Jorgensen’s constant collaborator since 1986) during the recording of this album, but the ideas and performance were both still of high quality, combining metallic rock elements with left-field arrangements and production to create something that really stood out from the pack. That they even included a cover of the Magazine classic ‘The Light Pours Out of Me’ is testament to the way that Ministry were able to cover so much ground within one album! By the time that ‘Houses of the Mole’ was released in 2004, Paul Barker had departed the band and the overall style of the album is clearly affected. Not that it’s a bad record but its’ mostly thrashy, hardcore pace is less adventurous than earlier releases, even though in some ways the direct assault of the songs is quite appropriate for the subject matter of the album, namely the George W Bush Presidency. There are a few slower tracks which also help to add more depth to the record, but in some ways they sound a little tentative and probably miss the dynamics that Barker would have added. ‘Rantology’, released in 2005, was a collection of remixes, together with one new track, ‘The Great Satan’, and so revisited their earlier material alongside songs from the two recent albums, perhaps in an attempt to put their new direction in clearer perspective. At the time it probably wasn’t such an exciting prospect for fans that already had versions of most of these tracks, but in retrospect it’s a pretty interesting alternative to the recent releases, presenting a different arrangement of ideas, possibly more in line with a live set. I expect you’ll already know whether you’re a Ministry fan by this point, but as this was one of their less-lauded eras, it's a great way to catch-up on some fine albums that you may have missed at the time.
THE MONSTERS. You’re Class I’m Trash CD (Voodoo Rhythm) The has got to be the most frantic, over-the-top garage-punk album since The Mummies last graced us with a 12” platter. Fast, raw, snotty and also surprisingly catchy… a lot of stupid people will hate this album, but if you enjoy it, you’re gonna go for it in a big way. It’s that kind of album, no middle ground, you’re going to love it or hate it and sometimes that’s just what the world needs. This is all about energy and attitude, thrashing along at near-hardcore tempos for one song before slowing things down to dirty, slurred country-blues for the next… There’s nothing predictable about this band! Formed in Switzerland, they’ve been together since 1986 and have toured all over the world, which makes it bizarre that I’ve only got to hear them recently. I mean, a glorious noise like this is not something that you could miss if they were in the vicinity! Anyway, having kept themselves busy for several decades, the prospect of not being able to play live during the lockdowns pushed them in the direction of a recording studio and this wondrous musical maelstrom was their response to the pandemic… which means it hasn’t all been a bad thing! This is a record that you need to hear at the earliest possible opportunity - and don’t mess about, play it loud enough to annoy people in the next town along! This is something that you really need to hear! (PS - be sure not to miss the hidden tracks at the end of the CD... keep paying attention and you'll be in for a couple of bonus treats!)
MOSTLY AUTUMN. Graveyard Star CD (Nova) Not so long ago, a band with a name like ‘Mostly Autumn’ could only have been Prog-related. These days, they could be ‘emo’, they could be ‘goth’… They could even be ‘post-hardcore’… Which at least means you can’t rely of guess-work anymore! In the case of this album, you could probably pick elements of all three genres although ‘Graveyard Star’ is an album produced by self -described ‘progressive rockers’. However, this band have clearly embraced many more influences and inspiration than the original Seventies progsters ever envisioned. This isn’t a style that I usually enjoy, mainly because of its’ emphasis on technical prowess, but as with most musical genres there are always a few genuine innovators that you can appreciate before the imitations followed in their footsteps. In this case, with ‘prog’ being such an over-played style, I was surprised how listenable and accessible this album sounds. Although technical-ability is still a great part of what they are doing, there’s also an inherent sense of connection as the album reflects the way that many of us have been feeling during the past couple of years, dealing with lockdowns, losses and isolation. There have been many emotional situations that we’ve all had to deal with and, unsurprisingly, music and Art in general is going to be reflecting this for some time to come. Having been together for over twenty years, Mostly Autumn have produced this album right here in the moment, talking about what they, and all of us, have had to deal with. Combining the technical side of ‘prog’ with the raw emotions and experiences that the pandemic has inflicted, the band have produced an album that’s identifiable and appreciable. As I said, perhaps not the sort of thing that I would normally listen to, but in this case the genuine sentiments make all the difference. Give it a listen, you may well be impressed.
MUD. The Albums, 1975-1979. CD boxset (Cherry Red) Mud are another band mostly remembered for their hits during the ‘Glam-rock’ era of the early 1970’s, although their career and musical output exceeded that period in many ways. Originally formed in 1966, they released their debut single the following year, although this and other early records were met with little success. In fact, it wasn’t until 1973, when they signed to the RAK label and hooked-up with producers Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, that they scored their first chart success, most notably ‘Dynamite’ which reached the Top Five. The following year, they continued their high profile with the singles ‘Tiger Feet’ and ‘The Cat Crept In’, alongside the festive-season classic ‘Lonely This Christmas’, whilst in 1975 they managed to score seven Top Forty hits within the twelve-month period! However, although the music-press often placed them alongside the likes of Sweet and The Glitter Band, their style was much more influenced by Fifties rock’n’roll, as exemplified by their usual ‘Teddy Boy’ appearance rather than more extravagant stage-wear. (Notably, they recorded a cover of Curtis Lee’s 1961 rock’n’roll hit, ‘Under the Moon of Love’, a year ahead of Showaddywaddy’s number one hit version!) Musically, they could deliver their songs with either plenty of boot-stompin’ energy or slow-down to play more moody, melodramatic crooners like their cover of Buddy Holly’s ‘Oh Boy’. Singer Les Gray had a great vocal style and could also perform an effective Elvis Presley impersonation when it was needed. The band themselves could also switch comfortably between musical genres, playing Disco-rock or Country-rock just as effectively as reggae tinged numbers. However, despite continued chart success during 1976, their popularity was on the wane and, after being dropped by their record label in 1978, Les Gray quit the band to try a solo career. During the early Eighties, Gray formed ‘Les Gray’s Mud’, which would continue as a popular live act on the nostalgia circuit (albeit with various line-ups) all the way through to his untimely death in 2004. Most bizarrely, the only original member to achieve chart success after the band broke-up was guitarist Rob Davis, who went on to write hit songs for the likes of Spiller (Sophie Ellis Bextor) and Kylie Minogue! Ultimately, Mud don’t receive as much credit in retrospect as other bands of their era because, despite releasing some truly great Glam rock singles, they also tried to cover too many different styles and never really established their own distinct style. That being said, the four albums included in this set do contain some real gems, from raw rock’n’roll tracks that wouldn’t have been out of place on the original pub-rock circuit through to high velocity stompers like ‘Nite on the Tiles’, ‘Beating Around the Bush’ or ‘Careless Love’, whilst they also had a fine talent for delivering catchy pop tunes. To make the most of this boxset, you’ll have to sift through all of the songs to discover the great moments (alongside the original albums, there's also plenty of bonus material!) but when you do find them you’re going to love ‘em.
MUDHONEY. Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge – 30th Anniversary Edition LP (Sub Pop) Now, this is the right way to celebrate an anniversary. Alongside the original album, all newly remastered, this package includes a bonus LP of additional material, including seven previously unreleased songs, new cover art, sleeve notes, rare photos and a poster… what fan is going to want to miss this? But, of course, the important thing is the album itself and in case you ever had any doubts, this is one chunk of grunge that still sounds as fresh and vital as it did when we first heard it. Having made their mark with their previous records, this was where Mudhoney started to expand their sound, proving that they were more than one-trick ponies whilst still retaining their bite and urgency. There’s a lot more depth and variety to the music on this album, bringing in hints of bands as diverse as Alice Cooper, Sonic Youth and maybe even the Velvet Underground, while they were also having more fun with the arrangements and production to give the whole album further dimensions. Mudhoney had already established themselves as a formidable live act by this point and their previous records had reflected that status, but this was the record that showed that they were just as capable and creative in the studio. If you haven’t heard this album for a while, this is an ideal time to listen to it again and appreciate how well it’s aged. And with all the bonus goodies, this is a reissue that you can’t afford to miss!
NECKSCARS. Don’t Panic CD (Engineer) This is a really enjoyable, solid album. Although this particular combo only came together in 2018, you can easily tell that the various members of this band have been playing music for some time before then, because each and every element within these songs blends together so naturally. Neckscars obviously know what they’re doing, don’t waste any time and don’t allow for any slack. Everything works together perfectly, bringing the very best out of each song. Musically, you can hear the influence of American bands like Husker Du and Seaweed, but also echoes of British groups like Leatherface and HDQ. The results are a powerful, impassioned sound interspersed by insistent melodies that will ensure that you don’t forget these songs for quite some time. This is an album that I can happily recommend to anyone.
NEKTAR. The Other Side CD+DVD (Cherry Red) Although the band members were all English, Nektar originally formed and were based in Hamburg during 1969. Their style is usually placed within the ‘prog-rock’ genre, although their early influences also included psychedelia and some of the bands that would become known as ‘krautrock’. Their early albums built-up a strong, underground following whilst later releases enjoyed much wider success, particularly in America and Germany The band split in 1982, but reformed in 2000 (now based in the USA) and have continued to perform live and record new albums ever since, albeit it with various different line-ups. This most recent studio album, first released in 2020, has now been expanded as a Deluxe Edition and is sure to be a treat for their fans. Alongside the brand-new material, the album also includes songs that were originally written back in the Seventies but which were never recorded or released at the time. Indeed, the final track, ‘Devils’ Door’ even includes their original guitarist, Roye Albrighton, who sadly died in 2016. The song had been performed live by the band during 1974 and they were able to locate a recording of one of those concerts, from which they were able to recover Albrightons’ guitar part to mix in to their new recording as an appropriate tribute to their former comrade. Despite the selection of songs dating from different decades, the overall results come together as a very solid album in it’s own right, reflecting both their origins and the musical technology available to them now. Unsurprisingly, it may not be as adventurous as their early material, but there are still plenty of quirks and hooks to keep the listener interested. This Deluxe Edition also includes an additional track and comes with a DVD, which includes an informative documentary following the making of this album. For anyone that’s ever been interested in this band, this is a release that more than lives up to their reputation.
OLD ERNIE. Chrysalis Like Me CD (Ex Gratia) This is very different to previous Old Ernie releases, although just as difficult to pin-down. For one thing, this album is far-more focused than its’ predecessors, even though the diverse ideas and influences are just as varied. But the mood and tone of the songs really work well as a whole album, almost understated at some points while increasing the volume and delivery at others. The music is guitar-based but also includes keyboards, flute and additional vocalists in a way that recalls a collision between Prog and Folk music (think of early King Crimson records…) together with hints of psychedelia and the kind of qualities you’d expect from a soundtrack score (at least, a soundtrack score for some kind of unsettling, atmospheric story… imagine ‘The Wicker Man’ being remade by David Lynch…) There are also moments that indulge rock music, both from the mainstream and more-experimental sources, but it’s all blended together in a convincingly subtle way so that no particular element takes prominence. Which, as I said at the beginning, really makes this a difficult album to pin-down, but that is definitely one of its’ strongest points. You have to listen to this and make your own mind up, because it’s the kind of music that calls for an emotional response, making it as much a personal experience for the listener as it is for the musicians. The only thing that’s missing is a lyric sheet, because I think that being able to read through the words would probably add even more depth to the album, but maybe that’s just my opinion… Regardless, I’ve really enjoyed this album and I’m happy to recommend it. Just be sure to listen without any preconceptions, because Old Ernie will be sure to confound them!
PARTY DAY. Sorted! CD (Optic Nerve) There was a period of time in the early Eighties when a lot of very interesting bands suddenly started to appear from Northern towns like Sheffield, Bradford and Leeds. Taking their inspiration from Punks’ DIY approach and the more eclectic sounds of bands like Wire, Joy Division, The Cure and Siouxsie & the Banshees, new groups like Southern Death Cult, The Chameleons and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry all took ‘rock’ music but turned it in new directions, often allowing more space in their music and developing the arrangement of songs in more imaginative and dramatic ways. There was often more emphasis on the rhythm section, making much of the music highly danceable despite the often unusual style. Party Day emerged from Barnsley during this period of time and were very much an important part of the scene despite not receiving the same level of success that some of their contemporaries achieved. Regardless, interest in the band has continued to grow and their records (most of which were released on their own label) have remained popular, resulting in original copies becoming much sought-after. This double CD is the first time the original material has been released on this format, gathering together all of their original releases (two 7” singles, the ‘Glasshouse’ EP, and the two albums, ‘Glasshouse’ and ‘Simplicity’) as well as tracks from compilations and previously unreleased material. It’s a collection that long-time fans and those new to the band have been waiting for, with the tracks re-mastered and sounding better than ever. Much played and supported by John Peel, the band quickly built-up a reputation both for their recordings and as a live-band. Indeed, reviews at the time often mentioned their well-balanced mix of melancholic themes with catchy melodies and the snarling delivery of primal punk rock. Original guitarist/vocalist Martin Steele left the band shortly after their first album due to health issues, but with Dean Pickett taking his place they retained their momentum and produced a second album, ‘Simplicity’, which displayed further development whilst maintaining the elements that under-scored their originality. They continued until 1988, making demos and plans for a third album, but sadly they split-up before it could be completed. In retrospect, the band have been inaccurately placed into the ‘goth’ genre, but don’t let this put you off because what they were doing was much more in line with what is now called ‘post-punk’. Admittedly, some elements of what they were doing musically were later adopted by bands that were too awful to be mentioned here, but you shouldn’t blame the real innovators for the dross that may have come along after them. Party Day wrote and performed songs that were powerful, catchy and atmospheric, rock music that really didn’t want to sound like anyone else. As a result, you can listen to it now, more than 35 years later, and it still sounds fresh. I must admit, I was actually surprised just how good this album sounds. Do yourself a favour – get a copy, listen to it, and prepare to be impressed.
THE PIRANHAS. The Complete Collection CD box-set (Anagram) The Piranhas originally formed in Brighton during 1977, but instead of following the punk-path musically, went for a more new wave style, combining catchy pop tunes and snappy ska rhythms to create a sound of their own. Combined with an insistent and witty lyrical style, the songs were sure to catch your attention and bring a smirk to your face. Having first appeared on the ‘Vaultage 78’ compilation LP, they released a series of singles over the next couple of years ( ‘Space Invaders’, ‘Coloured Music’, ‘Yap Yap Yap’ and ‘I Don’t Want my Body’) which received airplay and enthusiasm from John Peel gradually building up their popularity. But it was their unlikely signing to Sire records that brought about their biggest success with an inspired cover of ‘Tom Hark’. The song was originally an instrumental that dated back to 1958, but The Piranhas added their own twist by writing their own lyrics for the track, giving it a whole new character whilst maintaining its’ infectious dance beats. The a-side was soon getting mainstream exposure, but the two tracks on the b-side, ‘Getting Beaten Up’ and ‘Boyfriend’, both captured the band at their very best and displayed their true potential. Their debut album featured many of their best songs but it seemed as if their ‘new’ fans (and the label) just wanted more versions of ‘Tom Hark’ and the album failed to do as well as many had expected. Rumours of meddling from the record label certainly didn’t help the situation and the band were promptly dropped. In an attempt to follow-up the popularity of ‘Tom Hark’, the band indulged themselves in further African based music, releasing the ‘Vi Gele Gele’ single on the Dakota label in 1981, but the band split before it had a chance to go any further. However, a new version of The Piranhas emerged the following year and this time scored another hit with a cover of ‘Zambezi’ but, by this point, the band consisted of more session musicians than original members and after another couple of singles they split for a second time. The first disk in this collection contains early singles and the original, self-titled album which still sound very entertaining and at times, truly inspired. The second disk includes the complete recordings made for the Dakota label, which mostly veer towards the bands’ more African-influenced sound, while the third CD covers their earliest recordings, made for the local indie label Attrix, including songs that appeared on their first two singles and compilation albums. A final disk contains their three John Peel sessions, two from 1979 and one from 1980, all recorded before their success with ‘Tom Hark’ and, as such, quite possibly their most representative recordings. The Piranhas were a great new wave pop band who had considerable talent but sadly found themselves side-tracked by unexpected success and pressure from their label to follow-up in a similar style, rather than sticking to their own. This collection includes all of their recordings before they were derailed by ‘Tom Hark’ and will give you a good idea of what they may have been able to achieve if they had continued at their own pace and with their own ideas. Unfortunately, we’ll never know how things could have turned out, but whatever the case, there’s plenty of great songs to enjoy here and once you start listening I’m sure you’ll soon be loving their music as well.
PUNK AND DISORDELY – THE ALBUMS. CD boxset (Cherry Red) I have to admit, I never owned any of these compilations when they were originally released, but only because I’d already bought the singles already. Or, at least, the ones that I wanted to have. But listening back to these three volumes, originally released between 1982-83, they really do present the best of the UK82 punk rock scene. The first volume, in particular, is packed with great tracks from the likes of The Adicts, UK Decay, Peter & the Test-tube Babies, Blitz, Dead Kennedys, Chaos UK, GBH and The Outcasts. Aside from anything else, it shows the variety of styles found in the punk scene at the time and it’s importantly to note that a good proportion of fans were broad-minded enough to embrace all of it. The second volume, ‘Punk & Disorderly – Further Charges’, followed in the same spirit, featuring the likes of GBH, The Insane, Abrasive Wheels and Disorder, whilst also including more distinctive, individual styles from Action Pact, Channel 3, Violators and The Wall. Again, it was the combination or raw energy and the variety of sounds that made this a genuinely exciting album. The third volume, ‘Punk & Disorderly – The Final Solution’, featured another varied selection, from bigger names like UK Subs, Angelic Upstarts, The Exploited, The Vibrators and Chron Gen through to classic tracks from the likes of Abrasive Wheels, The Adicts, Action Pact and The Violators. Additionally, each volume included in the boxset includes additional tracks from other bands of the era, such as Discharge, Anti-Nowhere League, The Defects, The Lurkers, Varukers and The Blood, helping to present an ambitious oversight of UK Punk Rock in the early Eighties. As usual with the Cherry Red boxsets, you also get a twenty page, full colour booklet telling the story of the albums and including loads of artwork and photos. If you want to delve into the best of UK82, this is probably the perfect place to start and, although Punk Rock was continually being vilified or declared dead by the mainstream media of the day, this collection proves beyond a doubt that it was still very much alive and flourishing.
PUNK THE CAPITAL – BUILDING A SOUND MOVEMENT. DVD (Wienerworld) The subject of Washington DC’s punk/hardcore scene has featured in various documentaries before now, but none have attempted to be as thorough and accurate as this new film. To begin with, many assume that the whole scene didn’t start until Bad Brains kickstarted things in 1979. However while their influence and importance can’t be understated, there was already an independent punk rock scene making an impression from as early as 1976. The Slickee Boys, in particular, were integral in finding venues that would accept new bands and releasing records on local independent labels. Their sound, in retrospect, may not seem particularly ‘punk’, but their high-energy rock’n’roll certainly inspired what was to follow, much in the same way that the likes of Dr Feelgood and Eddie & The Hot Rods pre-empted punk rock in London. Other notable bands like Overkill and White Boy also helped to solidify the small scene. It was this basis that gave Bad Brains their initial access to venues and a potential audience. They took the music a lot further, in terms of tempo and intensity, opening things up and inspiring a new generation of bands. The first, Teen Idles (featuring Ian Mackaye and Jeff Nelson) lasted just over a year, between 1979-80, but within that time played many gigs in DC and even managed a short tour on the West Coast. They also posthumously self-released ‘Minor Disturbance’ EP on their own Dischord label. Mackaye and Nelson would go on the form the highly influential Minor Threat, as well as running Dischord label, which continues to document the DC scene to this day. Their early releases included SOA (featuring Henry Rollins) Minor Threat and Government Issue, plus the compilation LP ‘Flex Your Head’, which bought the DC scene (now referred to as ‘hardcore’) to an wider, even- international audience. However, the creativity within this scene wasn’t content to stay still and things continued to evolve. Bands like Void took hardcore to an extreme, embracing the potential ‘cacophony and chaos’ to full effect, while new bands like Rites of Spring, Dag Nasty, Grey Matter and Embrace found their own individual ways to express themselves. This documentary effectively covers those first ten years of the DC punk scene (obviously it has continued long past that first decade, but limitations have to be set.) As co-director James Schneider explains, the first cut of the film was seven hours long but had to be edited down to a viable length. That being said, the film features all of the individuals and bands mentioned above, as well as the likes of Brian Baker, Chris Haskett, Joe Keithley, Tim Kerr and Jello Biafra. A lot of the original footage may not be of the highest quality but there’s no denying the energy and intensity it conveys. In addition to the main film, the DVD also includes four excellent mini-docs made-up from the unused footage and focusing individually on The Slickee Boys, Void and Scream, as well as a feature about the legendary 1979 WGTB concert featuring the Cramps, which introduced many of the audience to primal Punk Rock for the first time. This DVD release is essential viewing for any fan of the bands that emerged from the DC punk scene and it covers its’ subjects with care and precision, whilst making sure that the high-energy levels of the music and performers are never missed-out. This is both educating and entertaining, something that the best Punk Rock should always be about!
RAF MOD BAND. Split Town LP (Time For Action) It may be a bit of an odd name for a band, but this album is most definitely one that needs to be heard! Based in Portland, Oregon, these guys have been playing together since 2011 and whilst they’re proud to be called ‘Mod’, they’re certainly not intent on limiting themselves to one thing. Their songs are upbeat and catchy, including punk, new wave and powerpop along the way. The Kinks, The Jam and The Chords are obviously part of their DNA, but I also hear hints of Buzzcocks, (early) Squeeze and even The Stranglers along the way. At times, they’re not even afraid to tackle Northern Soul or Ska, but always keeping it on their own terms rather than just offering-up an imitation. The arrangement and production of this album display a band with a confident and fully-focused vision of what they want to achieve and you can only be impressed by the way they’ve created their own style within this mix of established sounds. This is a really enjoyable album and one that could boost any party to the higher level. If only they were based in the UK, I’m sure they’d be getting loads of coverage. But that’s no excuse for missing out… This is a truly great album that’s packed with great songs and loads of excitement. You wanna have a good time? This could well be the soundtrack that you’ve been looking for!
THE RANDELLS. Kicks CD (Monster Zero) A new Swedish band for the Monster Zero label but, as always, the Ramones influence is highly evident on this selection of punky-pop mini-epics. Named after the lead-character from the ‘Rock’n’Roll High School’ movie, you can tell where this band are basing their three-chord tuneage but, thankfully, they don’t just stop there and add their own twists and ideas to the melting pot. Admittedly, songs like ‘I Don’t Wanna Be a Deadbeat’ and ‘Pick Me Up’ don’t stray far from the Da Brudders’ original formula, but tracks like ‘Gum in my Hair’, ‘Elvis in a UFO’ and ‘End of the Summer’ all possess their own character and attitude. If you want to hear an album that’s just a lot of fun, this one is definitely for you!
THE REACTION. The World Cup of Lies 10” EP (Time For Action) There’s a big misconception that most bands currently aligning themselves with the Mod genre tend to only base their music solely on the output of Paul Weller and The Jam. Not that The Jam are a bad influence to refer to, but even the most shallow investigation will quickly reveal that they had a wide range of influences inspiring their music, so limiting your point of reference to just one band would be missing the point. However, recent releases on the ‘Time For Action’ label have revealed that contemporary ‘Mod’ bands, far from being predictable, actually embrace the challenge set-down by their forebears and are intent on expanding the Mod style rather than just treating it as an established icon. The Reaction confuse expectations from the outset, hailing as they do from Moscow and featuring Sasha of The Riots, a superb Russian band who wholeheartedly embraced the Mod ideal (you can check out their previous releases on Time For Action as well…) The Reaction take the sound of The Riots and push it in a catchy, instantly accessible style which will prompt comparisons with The Jam, but only in the way that they’re not afraid to put the ‘pop’ into Art-pop or power-pop. After all, what’s the point of playing exciting, entertaining music if it’s not going to appeal to a wider audience? As well with two 7” singles released alongside this EP (‘Taste for Life’ and ‘Hard Rain in the City’, both on TFA) The Reaction have placed themselves in a bold position, clearly intent on appealing to an international audience, but without compromising their own style or integrity. This EP is a great record by anyone’s standards. Be sure that you hear it!
THE REFLECTORS. Faster Action LP (Time For Action) This is a great album, mixing Mod, Punk and Powerpop to perfection. The Reflectors are based in Los Angeles, although this album is being released in Europe by German Mod label Time For Action. At different times you’ll hear hints of The Undertones, The Chords, Exploding Hearts and maybe even Mott the Hoople, but the important thing is that, even with those influences in the background, this is a band who write amazing songs and play them in their own style. The songs are all upbeat, although the tempo never gets too fast, and the vocals are delivered with great harmonies. The production really captures the energy and melodies that the band generate, giving them a clean but powerful sound that ensures that the tunes are going to stick in your memory from the moment you first hear them. Opening track ‘All Made Up’ (also available as a single) is an instant classic that really ought to be getting regular radio-plays by any record station that claims to have good taste. These are the kind of timeless, enjoyable songs that you’ll never get tired of hearing… Play it at your party and play it loud. This needs to be heard by everyone!
THE RESIDENTS. Gingerbread Man – pREServed Edition CD (Cherry Red) Originally released in 1994, ‘Gingerbread Man’ was another highly ambitious project from The Residents, featuring both an album and an interactive CD Rom ‘game’. But whether or not you had access to a computer or the CD Rom, the album itself was very successful stand-alone release and, indeed, remains a classic in its’ own right. The album presents a selection of characters, delving into their darkest inner thoughts, set to reoccurring musical themes and evocative atmospherics. ‘The Aging Musician’ and ‘The Old Woman’ are amongst some of the best work The Residents have ever created, helping to make this album one that merits regular listening. On this occasion, the album is complimented by a series of live recordings taken from performances between 1997-2013. The second disk in this set is a real bonus for fans, ‘The Fat Boy Tape’. These were recordings made in early 1994 which served as a precursor for the ‘Gingerbread Man’ album. Not exactly demos, although some of these tracks were adapted and developed to be used on their following albums. With most of the tracks being pretty short, this is more of a curiosity for fans rather than a missing album, but regardless, it’s fascinating to hear the way The Residents prepared their initial ideas for upcoming projects. (This disk also includes a superb instrumental version of ‘Gingerbread Man’) The final disk of this set is ‘Hunters’, featuring the soundtrack recordings made by The Residents for the Discovery Channel TV series. Again, it’s not an ‘album’ in the usual sense, but quite an enjoyable instrumental set in its’ own right. And finishing the package are the four tracks from the ‘Prelude to the Teds’ EP, released as a limited edition CD back in 1993. So, altogether this is another fine reissue from The Residents, presenting one of their best albums and putting it in context amid all of the bonus material. Any fan, new or old, is going to appreciate this one!
SIDE PROJECT. Bittersweet CD (Engineer) this is the debut album from Leicester-based band Side Project, which mixes pop-punk melodies with a harder, more technical alt-rock style. At times they veer towards the more recent ‘emo’ genre, although tend to keep their songs more upbeat and successfully avoid falling into gloomy territory. Indeed, some of the choruses have a real ‘singalong’ quality, especially the final track ‘The Thoughts I Have When I Fall Asleep’. The production is powerful but also very clear, allowing you to hear everything that’s going on, which serves the band well as it makes sure that the whole performance is appreciated rather than just concentrating on particular aspects. As a relatively new band, they certainly seem to have a good idea of what they want to achieve and this debut is definitely heading in the right direction.
SONNY VINCENT. Snakepit Therapy LP (Svart) Sonny Vincent may not have the same high profile as others from the original New York punk movement, but he should have. Having endured a tough childhood and conscription in Vietnam, he formed his first band in 1972, playing a raw style of hard rock’n’roll which is now acknowledged as ‘proto-punk’. In 1975, he formed The Testors, playing the same circuit of clubs (CBGBs, Max’s Kansas City etc) as contempories like The Cramps, Suicide and Teenage Jesus. Unfortunately, they were only able to release one single at the time, although archival recordings have emerged in more recently. During the 80s, Sonny moved to Minneapolis where he ended-up forming Shotgun Rationale, who at different times featured the likes of Bob Stinson, Cheetah Chrome and Greg Norton in their ranks. In the 90s, Sonny moved to Europe and again formed new bands to keep himself busy, as well as playing and touring with Moe Tucker of the Velvet Underground for the best part of a decade. And as if this wasn’t enough, he also continued to tour and record his own music under different guises and with numerous guest musicians, including Ron and Scott Asheton, Steve Mackay, Rocket From the Crypt, Rat Scabies and Captain Sensible. Now back in the States, this is his latest offering and, from the very first burst of guitar, it’s clear that the passing of time has certainly not tamed his spirit and attitude. This album blasts its’ way from song to song with so much energy, variously recalling the Dead Boys or Husker Du, but always recognisable as Sonny Vincent at his best. The rhythm section holds everything together with a thunderous style, while the guitar delivers big riffs and melodic hooks that draw you all the way into the songs. The lyrics deliver words that reflect the most memorable moments of primal rock’n’roll angst, while ‘Higher Than Charlie’ addresses the Manson story, not as a tribute but more an observation of the mans’ lyrical legacy. There’s so much here to delve in to and I’m sure you’ll find plenty to enjoy. Just play it loud! (Also – check out the book of the same name, reviewed in the Book section…)
SONS OF ALPHA CENTAURI. Push CD (Exile on Mainstream) Contemporary hard rock from this highly regarded Kent-based band. Celebrating their twentieth anniversary, this is actually only their third album, although they have also released various collaborative records with the likes of Yawning Man and Karma to Burn. Similarly, they’ve played live only occasionally, despite developing a much-respected onstage-reputation…Whichever way you look at it, they’ve certainly not followed the path usually taken by rock bands and have stayed true to their own vision, which is to be admired. For this latest album, they’ve twisted expectations yet again. Having been known as an instrumental band, this time they’ve added the vocal presence of Jonah Matranga (known for his work in Sacramento bands Far and Gratitude) as well as a second drummer in the shape of Mitch Wheeler (from another Sacramento band, Will Haven.) Obviously, this adds further dimensions to their musical palette, although not in such a radical change as might disappoint fans of their previous records. The results recall many different roots, with influences and inspirations coming from a truly disparate range. Think of classic, early Seventies hard rock (Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin) whilst also embracing the better elements of Nineties rock (Soundgarden, Skin Yard.) Elsewhere, you can also pick-up hints of psychedelia and Placebo in their heavier moments, while the arrangements even recall Faith No More at certain times. This is a heavy, powerful but also cerebral album that could conceivably propel the band to a much wider audience (although, going by their previous career-path, I doubt that such a factor was ever on their minds…) This is hard rock for people who aren’t necessarily hard rock fans. At the end of the day, it’s basically great music and that’s all you really need to know.
STEARICA. Golem 202020. CD (Monotreme) This is an instrumental album inspired by the classic1920 silent movie, ‘Der Golem’. The music was created and performed by contemporary progressive, post-rock band Stearica, who are based in Italy. This soundtrack was commissioned by the Italian National Museum of Cinema, to be performed live alongside a showing of the original film at the MiTo Settembre Musica in 2011. However, the ten tracks were such a success that they were recorded live in the studio during 2014 and eventually completed in 2019 (no idea why there was such a long gap, but you know what these muso types are like!) Finally, the soundtrack is now available and it really has been worth the wait. The music is built around the atmospherics of the movie, which is in itself split into five chapters. The music is very accomplished but also very natural, picking on the various themes and textures of the story, from slower, more unsettling moments through to powerful hard rock riffs that propel the tale and add to the excitement. Of course, it does help to be familiar with the original film, to allow further appreciation of the music and the changing atmospherics, but even as a stand-alone album (this version is cut down to a regular 45 minute album performance) this is very enjoyable. Yes, it’s easy to sneer about prog-rock, but when a band like Stearica produce something as compelling as this, I really don’t care what genre they’re supposed to be.
THE STRANGLERS. Dark Matters LP (Coursegood) With the untimely loss of Dave Greenfield, this may prove to be the bands’ final studio album. I certainly hope this isn’t the case, but if it is I can only say that they’ve ended their recording career on a high note. The songwriting and musicianship is as strong as ever and, whilst it captures the classic Stranglers style and sound, this is an album that’s very-much about the band now, rather than merely trying to recreate their past. As the album was written and recorded over an extended period, Dave Greenfield was able to be an integral part of the process and his keyboards play their usual part within the arrangements, adding colour and character to the songs in the way that he always did so well. Over all, it could be said that the album is more sombre than its’ predecessors like ‘Giants’ and ‘Suite XVI’, but that never means that they lose the power of their delivery. Instead, they’ve become more emotive and atmospheric, drawing you into the drama of the songs, much like the under-rated ‘Feline’ album. The production and arrangements are superb and you really need to pay attention to keep up with ground that’s covered, from the almost Torch-song style of ‘The Lines’ through to ‘No Mans Land’, which could easily have come from the ‘Black & White’ or ‘Raven’ era. Songs like the great opener ‘Water’, or ‘If Somethings Gonna Kill Me’ and clearly destined to be live-favourites, while their tribute to Mr Greenfield (‘And if You Should See Dave’) is a sincere and touching eulogy. I expect most people already know if they enjoy The Stranglers or not, but if you are a fan then you need to get this album because it really is a great record. If it is to be their final album it’ll be a real loss, because ‘Dark Matters’ is an album made by a band still at the top of their game.
STUBBORN WILL. Contempt CD (Engineer) All the way from Spokane, Washington, Stubborn Will are a three-piece band (which will surprise you when you hear the massive sound they produce) who have only been together since 2019. Musically, they have a powerful, hard-driving sound that reminds me of bands like Quicksand, in the way that they still embrace their punk / hardcore roots but also seem intent on taking their music forward and allowing it to develop rather than remaining within safe genre boundaries. The more you listen to their songs, the more difficult it is to actually pin them down, which is no bad thing. Stubborn Will create music that’s accessible but also quite adventurous, which is a difficult aim to achieve. There are only five tracks on this EP, but they all sound good and suggest great potential in what this band are doing. I suggest you check them out as soon as you can.
SWELL MAPS. Mayday Signals LP (Easy Action) I’ve loved this band for around forty years, so this double-album of previously-unreleased recordings is very welcome here. Compiled by original Maps-member Jowe Head and taken from the extensive recordings they made between 1977-79, the album contains early / demo versions of familiar songs like ‘Dresden Style’, ‘Read About Seymour’ and ‘Vertical Slum’, alongside more obscure, experimental tracks… ‘Below Number One’ is a superb piece of Krautrock-inspired atmospherics, while the quirky punk of ‘Armadillo’ surely should have been a single? With the wide range of ideas and styles that the band played with and the often very basic, lo-fi approach they employed for many of their recordings, this collection could easily have become a messy affair, but Jowe has been very careful to put the tracks together in a way that’s just as much entertaining as it is intriguing. Admittedly, this probably isn’t the best introduction for someone new to the band but if you are already familiar with their avant-garde, punk rock style and enjoy their wry sense of humour, then this album is going to be a real treat. The album packaging remains true to the bands’ original visual presentation, also including sleeve notes written by Jowe and Nikki (obviously written some time ago but still poignantly appropriate for this release) and there are also extensive details concerning the individual tracks, including the personnel involved in each of the recordings (nice to spot guest appearances from the likes of Mayo Thompson, Steve Treatment and even Jim Thirlwell.) But it’s really the music that matters on this collection and the more you listen and delve into these songs, the more you’ll find to enjoy. Swell Maps still sound great because they never sounded like anyone else and since there’s nothing to really compare them to, their music remains remarkably fresh. Musically, they were never stuck in any particular scene or time-frame and, instead, stay unique and vital. As I said, this probably isn’t the best place to hear the band for the first time, but once you’ve got an idea of what you’re dealing with, this will be something that you’ll need to visit next!
THE WOLF HOWLS WHEN I SCREAM YOUR NAME. Grief Songs CD (Engineer) I’m still undecided about bands with lengthy names. It often seems a bit pretentious and inevitably they end-up being known by a shortened version, so why not go for something more to the point in the first place? Which isn’t to say that it means the band themselves won’t be enjoyable… Although in this case, ‘enjoyable’ probably isn’t the aim of this album. The songs have a dark mood, a melodramatic delivery and are full of soul-searching emotions. Unsurprisingly, this started as a solo project from front-man Matthew Awbery (as hinted on the lengthy ‘singer-songwriter’ intro to the title-track) but is now a three-piece with occasional guests as and when needed. Musically, there are hints of Bob Moulds’ darker moments, accompanied by loud, dirge-like guitar and rhythms, whilst at other points you may also hear suggestions of The Cure or Joy Division, at least in terms of atmosphere if not actually borrowing their style. It’s not easy-listening, but if you’re in the right mood for it, this is an album that you could really get into.
THE TOY DOLLS. The Albums 1989-93 (Captain Oi!) It’s unfortunate that many people only know of The Toy Dolls due to their unexpected hit single ‘Nellie the Elephant’. Lots of potential fans only heard that one track and decided the band were a one-off gimmick and weren’t worth taking seriously. However, although they’ve always embraced an absurdist sense of humour, The Toy Dolls have also taken their musical performance very seriously and have continued to develop their style and talents along the way. I can see that they’re not going to appeal to everyone, but they certainly deserve proper consideration and this set of albums is as good a place as any to jump in… The first disk features the ‘Ten Years of Toys’ album, originally released in 1989, which was made up with songs from their earlier albums, newly recorded to celebrate the bands’ first decade. It wasn’t intended as a ‘Best of’ collection, but at the same time gives a fine overview of the bands earlier material before you launch into their later releases. ‘Wakey Wakey’ was also released in 1989 and delivered a solid set of new songs, including a blistering version of the ‘Sabre Dance’. It quickly became a favourite amongst fans and saw the band undertake extensive touring across Europe and even as far as Japan. Their next studio album, ‘Fat Bobs Feet’, would emerge in 199, featuring 13 new songs written by frontman Olga plus a fine cover of the Kim Wilde hit, ‘Kids in America’, here relocated as ‘Kids in Tyne & Wear’. This disk also includes two tracks from their 1990 single, ‘Turtle Crazy’, a tribute to those Mutant Ninja reptilians. Unfortunately, it’s not the bands greatest moment (‘Kids in Tyne & Wear’ would have made a much better single…) The final studio album included here is 1992’s ‘Absurd-Ditties’, which finds the band back on top form. The songs surge along at a fast pace and feature some of Olga’s best song-writing to date. Lots of melodic hooks and singalong choruses which, together with the strong production, really make this an instantly likeable record. Following on from their choice of cover versions on previous albums, this time the band tackle the classical piece ‘Toccata’ in very impressive style, as well as the legendary ‘Duelling (‘Drooling’) Banjos’ which combines both Hillbilly and punk rock elements! One more album is also included in this set, the ‘Twenty Tunes Live from Tokyo’ LP, released in 1990 and recorded the previous year. In many ways, this is the perfect introduction to the band, as its’ onstage where they’re really in their element. The energy levels are consistently high and you can almost see the sparks flying back and forth between the band and their audience. Together with a great selection of songs (‘Dig That Groove Baby’, ‘She Goes to Finos’, ‘Cloughy is a Bootboy’ and ‘I’ve Got Asthma’) this album really gives you the best picture of what this band are all about. As I said earlier, they’re not going to appeal to everyone, but once you give these albums a good listen, you may well find yourself becoming their latest convert!
THE VAPORS. Waiting For The Weekend – The United Artists & Liberty Records Recordings. CD Box-set (Cherry Red.) The Vapors are a band who will forever be remembered for their classic single, ‘Turning Japanese’, a song so iconic that it has been covered by the likes of Paul Westerberg and Kirsten Dunst along the way (check out both on youtube…) Having said that, it’s also a song that to a great extent has over-shadowed the bands other releases. They weren’t exactly one-hit wonders, with several successful singles and albums to their name, but ‘Turning Japanese’ did give them a particularly high standard to live up to. This new collection goes some way to redressing the balance, providing a chance for their other releases to present their individual cases. As it turns out, there’s plenty to consider and a lot of fine material that really deserves to be appreciated on its’ own merits. The Vapors originally formed in 1978 and were spotted by Bruce Foxton of The Jam (as if he wasn’t busy enough with his own band!) who offered them a support slot on The Jams’ upcoming tour. The subsequent coverage worked and the band were signed by United Artists. Their first single, ‘Prisoners’, surprisingly failed to chart, but their second, ‘Turning Japanese’ became an unforgettable hit. The subsequent singles, ‘News At Ten’ and ‘Waiting for the Weekend’, didn’t match the success of their predecessor but both made their mark with the bands’ enthusiastic fan-base while their 1980 debut album, ‘New Clear Days’, hit the top 50 in charts across the world. ‘New Clear Days’ showcased a great mix of New Wave / Mod styles which were very accessible, while their second album, ‘Magnets’, was released in 1981 and veered more towards a powerpop direction. However, although their new material was no less catchy, it was also at odds with the New Romantic scene which was then being courted by the music press. Their new single, ‘Jimmie Jones’, was another great song which deserved attention but, despite it’s catchy power-pop sound, was perceived to refer to cult leader Jim Jones and subsequently didn’t receive the coverage it deserved. The lack of enthusiasm in the media led to poor sales and The Vapors split-up in 1982 (although they have since reformed, in 2016, and released a new album, ‘Together’, in 2020.) Over the space of four disks, this box-set includes all of The Vapors original releases plus previously-unreleased demos and alternative versions of both albums, plus a complete live set recorded at The Rainbow in December 1979. For any old fans, this box-set is going to be the Holy Grail, capturing the band at the beginning and all the way through to the end, including a live recording that captures the band at their very best. In many ways a band that could have been much more successful, it was the inconsistency of the music press that failed to give them the chance they deserved. Listen to this collection and appreciate the potential that should have been realised.
WARFARE. The Songbook of Filth CD set (HNE / Cherry Red) Formed in Durham by drummer/vocalist Paul ‘Evo’ Evans during 1982, Warfare were one of the first UK metal bands to really embrace punk rock elements in their music and attitude. Evo himself had already played with punk bands such as The Blood and Angelic Upstarts so he had the right idea of how to carry it off in appropriate style. Over the ensuing decade, they released seven albums which included guest appearances from members of Venom, Motorhead, Penetration, Anvil, The Damned and Tank (either as musicians or in the producers’ chair.) Musically, they created a sound that, although distinct and very much its’ own deal, sat somewhere inbetween Motorhead at their most frantic and the more metallic edges early Eighties punk bands like GBH and Anti-Nowhere League. Warfare quickly built-up a devoted following but despite support from the likes of Radio DJ Tommy Vance, they didn’t manage to cross over to the more ‘mainstream’ rock audiences… basically, they were too raw and ‘punk’ for many metal fans, although on the opposite side, many punk fans enjoyed their more raucous hard rock-style. Similarly, their sense of humour was often misconstrued. They released cover versions of ‘Two Tribes’ (raising it to a gloriously chaotic level!) and also twisted the AOR of ‘Addicted to Love’ in their own style, transformed to ‘Addicted to Drugs’. Again, in ‘punk’ terms such releases were there to be enjoyed, but critics sadly took such things far too seriously. Warfare were just a little too early to be properly appreciated… by the end of the Eighties, metal bands who had followed their example and incorporated punk influences in their music were becoming popular on a worldwide basis… think of Metallica, Slayer, Ministry… Indeed, Metallica even invited Warfare to support them at Hammersmith Odeon in 1985, but when they arrived to be told that they had to pay to perform by the venue management, they instead set-up and played in the car-park, resulting in a mini-riot and Evo’s arrest! Warfare were certainly pioneers’ that brought genuine chaos to their metal-roots and deserve the credit for being, if not the first, then certainly one of the earliest punk-metal crossovers. This 3 CD compilation brings together rare and previously-unreleased material, from live recordings and radio sessions through to vintage outtakes and even a selection of tracks from Evo’s earlier bands (Major Accident, The Blood and Angelic Upstarts) to put things in proper perspective. Although Evo originally ended the band and quit the music business in 1992, he eventually returned to the fray in recent years, which also allows several brand new tracks to be included here, bringing the story right upto date. As such, whether you’re an original fan or new to their delights, this compilation is going to give you a thorough overview of what you can expect from the band. This music isn’t for the faint-hearted, but if you enjoy your rock’n’roll loud and nasty, this is an album set that you’re really going to enjoy.
WASTE. The Lost Tapes – Oudenbosch 1981-83 EP (Subunderground Chaos Archives) Waste were a short-lived Dutch punk band who existed between 1981-83, releasing just one EP (‘History Repeats’) which is now quite a sought-after item. This new EP features previously unreleased recordings from the band that really capture their style and energy. The five tracks were taped in their rehearsal room, so the sound-quality isn’t perfect, but it suits the songs really well. Musically, the band veer between faster Discharge-style songs and more-paced punk rock along the lines of early Anti-Pasti, perhaps. Also, two of the songs feature female vocals which recall Dirt in some ways, which adds further depth to their sound. Overall, these tracks show plenty of ideas and lots of raw power that really propel the songs forward. This EP is limited to only 300 copies, so I suggest you track down a copy now to avoid missing-out!
WESTON SUPER MAIM. 180 Degree Murder EP (westonsupermaim.bandcamp.com/)This is the first release from an Anglo-American duo who combine hard rock with extreme industrial sounds to create something that’s both aggressive and surprisingly catchy. The main body of these two extended tracks is always based on
monstrous, bludgeoning guitar riffs, but within that foundation there’s also space for unexpected melodic hooks that work as a perfect counterpoint to the brutal vocal style. Although initiated before the lockdowns struck, the duo found ways to complete their project whilst unable to work directly together. Instrumentalist Tom Stevens worked on the musical aspects and arrangements in London while singer Seth Detrick was able to develop his vocal ideas and delivery at home in Oregon. When the final results came together, the two tracks were highly impressive. Taking the harder edges of industrial rock and combining them with an abstract, angular production, WSM have created something adventurous and intriguing. It’s not easy-listening, but if you’ve got an ear for the louder and more extreme moments of rock music, then you need to check this out.
monstrous, bludgeoning guitar riffs, but within that foundation there’s also space for unexpected melodic hooks that work as a perfect counterpoint to the brutal vocal style. Although initiated before the lockdowns struck, the duo found ways to complete their project whilst unable to work directly together. Instrumentalist Tom Stevens worked on the musical aspects and arrangements in London while singer Seth Detrick was able to develop his vocal ideas and delivery at home in Oregon. When the final results came together, the two tracks were highly impressive. Taking the harder edges of industrial rock and combining them with an abstract, angular production, WSM have created something adventurous and intriguing. It’s not easy-listening, but if you’ve got an ear for the louder and more extreme moments of rock music, then you need to check this out.
ZEROMANCER. Orchestra of Knives CD (Trisol Music) Zeromancer are a Norwegian band who produce a catchy, melodic version of ‘industrial’ rock. They’ve been together for more than twenty years, although this is their first album of new material in eight years. They certainly don’t sound like they’ve lost anything in the ensuing years, as this is an album that sounds very confident and accomplished. In some ways, ‘Orchestra of Knives’ is reminiscent of the first Nine Inch Nails LP (‘Pretty Hate Machine’) in the way that it combines electronic music with a rock attitude, catchy melodies and an almost filmic atmosphere, but there’s also a lot of other influences at play, from Depeche Mode through to Skinny Puppy. And just as much as you can pick up on numerous influences, the music also offers many possibilities for the future and where this band may be heading next. They could easily opt for a more commercial route, while they also have the option of delving further into the darker side of their music. I’m sure either choice would be successful… But in the meantime, give this album a listen and allow yourself to be drawn into their current vision.
V/A. Oi! The Albums, Volume 2. CD Boxset (Cherry Red) Between 1987 and 1993, another seven Oi! compilation albums were released by the revered Link Records, a label set-up by Mark Brennan of The Business. Although they may not have received as much media-attention as the earlier albums, they proved that there was still an audience for street-level punk rock and featured many of the best-known names in the scene alongside plenty of new and promising bands, which were still emerging on a regular basis. The appropriately entitled ‘Oi! The Resurrection’ appeared in early 1987, featuring a great mix of already-established bands like Menace, Cockney Rejects and The 4-Skins, alongside new talents like The Magnificent, Vicious Rumours and The Strike. The production quality was good throughout and the standard of the songs was also high, making for a fine album that proved to be a popular release. Its’ success ensured that a second compilation was inevitable and ‘The Sound of Oi!’ appeared a mere six months later. Keeping to the formula, it was another mix of old and new bands, featuring The Business, The 4-Skins, Cocksparrer and the Cockney Rejects to draw-in the fans, while newer bands like Skin Deep, Burial and Renegade did their best to steal the show! On top of anything else, the variety of the songs included also displayed the different styles and ideas that the upcoming bands were bringing to the scene. ‘Oi…Glorious Oi!’ continued the fast pace of releases from Link, appearing in December ’87. Cockney Rejects featured once again (with a rare version of ‘Rip Off’) as well as tracks from Sham 69 and Angelic Upstarts, whilst Burial, The Glory and The Strike highlighted the new talent. ‘Oi! That’s What I Call Music’ was the only Oi! compilation during 1988, but made up for it with a truly great set of tracks. Starting with ‘Don’t Just Sit There’ by The Crack, the album began with a classic anthem, enthusiastically followed by songs from The Magnificent and The Glory. The Betrayed deliver a frantic track that the likes of Rancid would love to call their own while the album ends with three bigger names – the legendary Judge Dread, Splodgenessabounds and a chaotic live cover of ‘Pretty Vacant’ by Sham 69. Fans had to wait another year for the next instalment, ‘Pop Oi!’, but I think most of them would have agreed it was worth the wait. Kicking-off with the classic ‘Situations’ from the original bootboys, Slaughter & The Dogs, the album may have included more younger bands this time around, but the quality of the songs was consistently high. The Crack, Five O and The Strike deliver some great tracks, while there’s also a selection of bands from the American Oi scene, including American Eagle, The Kicker Boys, Moonstomp and The Madhatters. Elsewhere, for a change of style, you can also check out South London legend Frankie Flame performing pub-piano versions of Cocksparrers’ ‘England Belongs To Me’ and The Business’ ‘Harry May’. You may need a pint in your hand to appreciate these tracks, but it will all make sense in the end! The next volume, ‘Oi! Oi! Oi!’, appeared in 1990 and began with ‘Beat of the Street’, a surprisingly catchy song from Section 5, whilst a new band to this series of albums, ‘Distorted Truth’ offered up the excellent ‘Party Political Bullshit’ and ‘Fallout’. There’s an alternative version of ‘Johnny Barden’ from The Last Resort and ‘Those Days’ from Blitz, alongside decent songs from The Crack and the only American band included this time, The Boneshakers, but it has to be said, this wasn’t the best of the Oi! compilations. Good, but not great. The final disc in this boxset is ‘The Joys of Oi!’ album, originally compiled by Gary Bushell and intended for release on Syndicate Records in 1985. However, due to financial problems, it wasn’t released until 1990, when Link released a very limited vinyl version. The album does include tracks from Blitz, The Strike (‘Mania’, a real stormer!) The Business, Distorted Truth, Cocksparrer and The 4-Skins, but there are a few problems. A total of seven tracks (out of 17) are co-written and performed by Bushell and Steve Kent (of The Business) so a lot is going to depend on whether you’re a fan of Bushells’ musical talents. I have to admit the mostly-instrumental track ‘Aloha’ by the Orgasm Guerillas’ is actually very catchy, but the inclusion of a track by a band called ‘Legalise Rape’ is not clever even if they’re not supposed to be taken seriously. All I can say is, thank gawd they never got the chance to release anything else. For me, this album is a case of, the good tracks are great but the others aren’t… That being said, it is good to hear it in this boxset as original copies are now expensive and highly collectable. Overall, despite a few hiccups, this boxset is a worthwhile collection of albums because it shows that Oi! didn’t just fade away when the media lost interest and instead actually developed in different directions, both musically and ethically. Street-level punk and protest deserves to be heard and this music is a great way to have it heard. Snobs can dismiss it as much as they want, but this is a valid voice and you can only ignore it at your peril.
V/A. TOTAL EXOTICA CD (Cherry Red) Subtitled ‘As Dug by Lux and Ivy’, it’s unclear if the dynamic duo actually had any involvement with this collection, but it’s certainly true that their love of exotica and lounge music was the on the flipside to their love of primal rock’n’roll. ‘Exotica’ is a genre that covers such a wide range of musical styles and sounds that it would be almost impossible to put together a definitive compilation of the very best moments. It’s all too subjective – some fans will love certain composers ofr specific pieces of music, whilst others will opt for completely different selections. But that’s a large part of the charm when it comes to this kind of music… there’s so much out there that you have to keep digging to find your own favourites. Where this double-CD compilation works is in the way it gives you pointers towards the sounds and musicians that trip your taste-buds, giving you an idea of who/what you need to investigate further. Loosely speaking, Exotica is a style of music that was originally popular during the 1950’s-60’s, initially created to convey a sense of Pacific island culture, perhaps mixed with the Caribbean, South America and sometimes even Africa. It was most notably developed by the likes of composers Les Baxter, Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman and in many ways akin to movie soundtracks, where the music was intended to suggest certain atmospheres and styles, often transposed into lounge-bar or nightclub situations. It would usually feature lush, elaborate orchestral arrangements and was mostly instrumental, but on occasions would also feature exceptional vocals from the likes of Yma Sumac or Ethel Azama. Although never really embraced by the mainstream, Exotica has become highly influential over the ensuing years, often in quite unexpected places. During the 1970s and 1980s, you could find references in the work of experimental artists such as The Residents, Throbbing Gristle and Boyd Rice, whilst later on many of the original albums would be used as sources for a myriad of samples in the Dance-music scene. Further still, it can be found as an inspiration in work by Jarvis Cocker, Damian Albarn and Lady Gaga… But it’s still the original albums that will blow you away most effectively. This compilation features all the original artists I’ve mentioned above, as well as other notable composers such as Henry Mancini, Esquivel and Yusef Lateef. Split into two parts (‘Island Life’ and ‘Bachelor Pad’) the musical selections come together really well, whilst also displaying a variety of styles that will leave you chilled-out at one moment, only to consider ‘what the fuck was that’ in the next. But again, that’s the fun of it… Exotica, despite initial expectations, can really give you a slap in the face. Play this album late at night with the lights turned-down and an appropriately extravagant cocktail in your hand… if it doesn’t make sense, then nothing will!
V/A. VOODOO RHYTHM – LABEL COMPILATION Vol.5 CD (Voodoo Rhythm) From the label run by the infamous Reverend Beat Man and subtitled ‘A Label Compilation to Ruin Any Party’, you should already know that this album is going to contain some pretty incendiary sounds. Well, from the very beginning it delivers the goods! Kicking-off with ‘Smell My Tongue’ by The Monsters, we’re faced with some of the most raucous garage-punk since The Mummies, quickly followed by Bad Mojos and their aptly entitled ‘Crash & Burn’ which keeps the energy levels right off the scale… After an upbeat start like this you might be expecting more of the same, but the album also offers a varied selection of styles. Reverend Beat Man himself appears alongside Izobel Garcia with a truly inspired cover of the Venom classic ‘Black Metal’, stripped down to a Voodoo-inspired swampy-blues style… (Izobel also offers some exotica-tinged blues of her own…) Trixie & The Trainwrecks deliver the insanely catchy ‘Too Good to be Blue’, somewhere inbetween the Headcoatees and Detroit Cobras while Degurutieni delve into the kind of territory often covered by Tom Waits. Nestter Donuts and The Devils take us back to full-throttle garage-sounds, followed by The Sex Organs and their entertaining bad taste ditty, ‘Lubrication’. Honshu Wolves are represented by the excellent ‘Tell Me’ from their recent album ‘Cosmic Creature Capture’ (one of the best records released this year!) and the compilation comes to a close with The Dead Brothers with their lounge-jazz styling ‘Mean Blue Spirit’. I haven’t mentioned every band included on this album, but you can trust me, there isn’t a bad track on here. If you want to check out this label and discover a whole new selection of great bands, this is the ideal place to start. Buy it soon and play it loud! (Collectors beware – this album is also available as a snazzy picture disk!)